EADS wins large Saudi border protection deal

Published 21 July 2009

EADS’s win of the massive Saudi border fencing contract, valued at $2.3-2.8 billion, is part of the defense contractors effort to use homeland security projects as a means to bolster its revenues

Good fences make good neighbors, and fences and related surveillance systems are becoming popular around the world, including the Middle East. As DID notes (“Jordan’s JBSP Border Security Program”), even if these systems do not offer total protection, they do offer improved border security. This is what Saudi Arabia is looking for in constructing a fence along its northern border. DID reports that the concept was translated into a policy initiative in 2006, and is currently scheduled for completion by the end of 2009.

As is the case with other serious border-protection efforts, the northern fence, along the Saudi border with Iraq, was never designed to be a stand-alone effort. It is part of a much larger border project which was first considered after the 1991 Gulf War. The Saudis have conducted a 13-year long bidding competition for a more comprehensive system of border and infrastructure security measures. DID says that bidders included France’s Thales and EADS, Britain’s BAE Systems, and U.S. company Raytheon. Now, a contract worth a reported $2.3-2.8 billion (Ynet estimates the contrat to be worth $3.5 billion) has been issued for more than 8,000 miles of fencing and surveillance. Even as Saudi Arabia’s biggest concerns have shifted away from its northern border.

On 30 June, EADS announced:

After being under contract for the northern border security, which is now under execution [DID: in cooperation with Al-Rasheed Trading Contracting], EADS Defense & Security has been awarded (as prime contractor) the border security program covering the full borders of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. This contract will be executed in the next 5 years and is the largest contract ever competed worldwide as a full solution…. The Saudi border guard will benefit from a leading edge solution, providing visibility and operational awareness for about 9000km of borderline (mountains, deserts and sea borders). The solution will ensure border coverage is visible and managed at the sector level, whilst simultaneously providing situational awareness at the regional and national level.

The above, in plain English, means the EDA is talking about a system of fences, watchtowers, radar, day/night cameras, and communications, with links back to command centers that can pool data at the local, regional and national levels.

Al Rashid Trading and Contracting Co. will remain EADS’ civil engineering partner for the larger project, and EADS had already set up a Middle Eastern office in Abu Dhabi rather than run the bid and the northern border contract from Europe. Note that investments by Arab