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Aviation industry set to take off in Saudi Arabia

Riyadh will manufacture the multipurpose AN-32 on Saudi soil [Getty]

Date of publication: 7 May, 2015

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For the first time in its history, Saudi Arabia will manufacture cargo planes on its own soil.

Saudi Arabia has taken the first step towards manufacturing its own aircraft.

The state-owned King Abd al-Aziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) announced a deal to manufacture aircraft in Saudi Arabia between its one of its subsidiaries and the Ukrainian aircraft manufacturing giant Antonov.

Saudi state news reported that factories will produce a new model of Antonov's AN-32 military transport aircraft in around 18 months' time.    

KACST president Turki Bin Saud said in a joint press conference with Antonov chief Dmitry Kiva that an important goal of the deal was to pass on knowledge about aviation and manufacturing technology to young Saudis.

Antonov said that the updated version of the AN-32 would be designed in collaboration with Riyadh and then produced in Saudi Arabia.

Riyadh will own the blueprints and intellectual property rights to the new aircraft.

The fuel-saving propeller-driven AN-32 can carry troops or civilian and military cargo.  

Saudi Arabia has been keen to diversify its economy away from oil - and one possible path is to develop a domestic military industry.

Riyadh was the world's biggest weapons importer last year.

It has reportedly been looking at ways it can cut down on its military expenditure and become a future exporter of arms.

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