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Saudi Arabia Inks Drone Manufacturing Deal

Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Military Industries (GAMI) announced that it will acquire 46 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) from local defence vendor INTRA Defense Technologies.

The UAV acquisition will start in Q1 2021 at a projected cost of $199.5 million US.

Neither GAMI or INTRA revealed the type or specifications of the drone, but INTRA showcases two drone types in its product portfolio: the ASEF vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) UAV, and the Karayel combat-capable UAV. Thus, GAMI’s order is likely for one (or both) of these UAVs.

The Karayel was developed by the Turkish company Vestel, which unveiled the armed UAV in 2017 at the Dubai Air Show. With a wingspan of 13 m, the Karayel offers an endurance of eight hours when equipped with a payload of 120 kg. If equipped with solely a 50 kg electro-optical and infrared (EO/IR) sensor suite, the Karayel can operate for 20 hours and reach an altitude of 18,000 ft.

It should be noted that INTRA’s UAV is among several programs in Saudi Arabia. In 2017, the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) revealed its own UAV design, the Saqr-1. Likewise, there had also been reports of KACST manufacturing Chinese CH-series UAVs under license.

Given the mandate of GAMI (i.e., to promote Saudi Arabia’s defence industry), INTRA will commit to locally manufacture the UAVs. Moreover, INTRA’s CEO Salman Al-Shathri said that his company will localize 60% of the program’s total value across both production and maintenance. He added that the program will generate around 500 jobs, of which 70% will go to Saudi Arabia.

In addition, INTRA is also aiming to export the UAVs to other markets.

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