As the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) embarks on a transformational journey towards less dependence on oil and moving towards developing its industrial base as part of vision 2030, the aerospace sector is one of great importance and high priority. Today, the Aerospace Cluster is enjoying accelerated growth and is attracting a multitude of interested global investors. With the aim of increasing FDI, the Kingdom offers multiple advantages that include geographical proximity to three continents, direct free trade access to the GCC market, attractive tax exemptions, human capital development support, highly competitive land and energy costs, very attractive loan structures, well-developed infrastructure, highly educated young workforce, and abundance of natural resources and minerals. The aerospace cluster has three focus areas: Advancing R&D / innovation, localization of the production of aerospace-grade materials, and development of the aerospace supply chain.
KSA has one of the most advanced higher education systems with over 80 world-class universities and colleges. Both King Abdul Aziz University and King Fahad University offer Aeronautical and Aerospace engineering programs with research capabilities. Additionally, King Abdullah University for Science and Technology (KAUST) is regarded among the top research institutions globally with state-of-the-art equipment and labs. In the Nature Index Rising Stars (2016), KAUST ranked 19th as fastest-rising universities for high-quality research output. In 2019 KAUST was ranked as 8th fastest-rising young universities that are under 50 for their research output since 2015. Hence, the KSA offers a very fertile environment for conducting advanced research in the aerospace domain.
Part of its journey towards the industrialization of the aerospace sector, the KSA is keen on locally producing certified aerospace-grade materials such as Titanium, Aluminum, and carbon fiber composites for commercial aviation applications.
AMIC was established as a joint venture with Toho titanium metals company, the 4th largest producer of titanium sponge in the world, to establish the production of premium grade titanium sponge in Yanbu, KSA with a capacity of 15.6 kt. The established JV (ATTM) achieved commercial operation with the production of its first batch of titanium sponge in September, 2019. Today, AMIC is on its way in partnership with major OEMs in the aerospace industry to develop its melt and forge capabilities to compete on the global market for aerospace grade titanium milled products.
Maaden with its vision “mine to metal” established a joint venture in 2009 with Alcoa, the world’s third-largest aluminum producer investing USD 10.8 billion to develop a bauxite mine, a refinery, a smelter and one of the world’s most advanced rolling mills. Today, with its product quality exceeding the highest international standards and being sold to both domestic and global markets, there is keen interest in pursuing the development of additional downstream aluminum-based industries particularly the aerospace grade.
New generation aircrafts extensively apply the use of carbon fiber composites in their manufacturing processes. The KSA today is attracting a number of key players in the carbon fiber composites domain to establish its CF composites manufacturing capabilities targeting not only commercial aerospace applications but also renewables and automotive applications.