Counter-drone director talks about testing in Saudi Arabia and regional expansion


BEIRUT – The Saudi government knows from experience the threat posed by drones. The September 2019 attack on the Abqaiq and Khurais oil facilities by swarms of drones and low-level cruise missiles revealed a gap in the kingdom’s defenses, despite a mix of long, medium rigs. and short range.

The Monegasque company MARSS hopes to fill this gap. He opened a new facility in the Saudi capital of Riyadh in January and hopes to strike a deal with the kingdom to counter unmanned aircraft systems. Defense News spoke with the company’s new chief executive in Saudi Arabia, Andrew Forbes, on March 11 about his local work and the systems currently being tested.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Has MARSS customized specific systems in response to Saudi Arabia‘s UAS response needs?

The NiDAR system provides a C4I [command, control, communications, computers and intelligence] aptitude. One of the beauties is that it is a software agnostic platform, which means that the system can connect to any type of sensor or effector. He was interested in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. We can customize it for the Arabic language, but oddly enough, one of our clients asked to remove Arabic and keep English.

This specific system can be connected to any sensor – whether it is sonar, radar, naval or air radar; camera systems can be connected, as can jamming capabilities, effectors, and physical destruction capabilities. We can customize the setup according to what the customer wants and the specific problem and location.

Considering the extreme heat in Saudi Arabia, we used more robust components and capacities to withstand the harsh environmental conditions. We also worked in an ability to withstand sandstorms.

After opening a new site in Saudi Arabia and taking into account the kingdom’s decision to stop contracting with companies without a local headquarters, what are your plans for cooperation with the government?

MARSS has been working in the kingdom for about 10 years. We have done several small projects and we have a good relationship with clients here. For us, several counter-drone projects are [related to our office’s growth]. We are working on a quick setup and locating more capacity in the realm as we increase the number of employees in this headquarters. In total, by the end of 2021, we want 50 employees based in Saudi Arabia – a team of mixed nationalities. We are committed to localization and Vision 2030, [Saudi Arabia’s economic initiative].

How can your systems help secure Saudi airspace? Are you working on joint programs with local businesses?

There is a real drone threat every day in Saudi Arabia. This is where the role of our systems comes in. We propose to protect key facilities and infrastructure. Vision 2030 doesn’t actually specify that we should have a joint venture with local businesses; he says you have to be a local business. We are considering joint ventures with Saudi Arabian Military Industries and we have weekly conversations with SAMI and its subsidiary Advanced Electronics Company. But we are in the preliminary stages of discussions with SAMI.

Tell me more about the tests NiDAR is undergoing in the kingdom. What does MARSS offer in terms of training Saudi officials and technicians?

We have the system in place and we are using it. He’s in the realm and tested with real targets. We cannot share details of ongoing testing in the kingdom, but MARSS follows standard factory acceptance testing and site acceptance testing procedures to ensure our systems are performing as expected and to customer satisfaction. .

MARSS provides theoretical and practical training on our NiDAR systems delivered to the Saudi customer.

How do you plan to increase your footprint in the region?

We are looking for other partnerships. Specifically, we are looking for opportunities in UAE and Bahrain.


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