In a recent interview with the U.S.-Saudi Business Council (USSBC), Brig. Gen. (Ret.) Joseph Rank, Chief Executive and Vice President of Lockheed Martin Saudi Arabia, a Platinum member of the Council, shared his experiences and insights about the company’s long-standing presence in the Kingdom. With over five years of dedicated service in Saudi Arabia, Brig. Gen. Rank discusses Lockheed Martin’s evolution since its first involvement in the country in 1965 and its pivotal role in advancing Saudi Arabia’s defense capabilities. He also highlights the company’s recent focus on building industrial capabilities within the Kingdom, contributing to technology transfer, and supporting Vision 2030 initiatives.
Can you tell us about your experience working in the Kingdom and how Lockheed Martin’s presence has evolved since its initial involvement in 1965?
It has been a pleasure to work in the Kingdom for almost five years now. My family and I have enjoyed living and travelling throughout the Kingdom during this historic period. Lockheed Martin has had a longstanding partnership with the Kingdom since 1965, when the first C130 planes arrived. My first experience in the Kingdom goes back to 1991 when I deployed to the Kingdom for Desert Storm with the First Infantry Division.
Could you share insights into Lockheed Martin’s current role and contributions in Saudi Arabia?
At Lockheed we are proud to have the privilege of working in the Kingdom and providing cutting edge capabilities in missile defense, ships, helicopters, radars, C130s, and satellites. These are things we have sold, but today we are doing something different. For the past several years, we have been building industrial capability in the Kingdom, which includes transfer of technology and know-how, so we can not only sell things here, but manufacture and repair them.
To do this, we have established partnerships with key Saudi players in the defense ecosystem, including Saudi Arabian Military Industries (SAMI), MEPC, AIC Steel, and others who are producing and repairing defense articles with us today. We are also investing in Saudi talent to support the Kingdom’s Vision 2030. For example, we have helped establish Prince Salman College of Business and Entrepreneurship in King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC), which is the Kingdom’s leading MBA school.
What advice would you offer to individuals or companies considering investments or professional opportunities in Saudi Arabia, based on your experiences and observations over the years?
For others interested in coming to the Kingdom, I would like to share that there are lots of opportunities and every year it is getting easier to work and invest in the Kingdom. As for talent, there are plenty of well-educated young Saudis with impressive degrees from the U.S. and Europe, and they are eager and excited to work. For the past two years we also have sponsored summer interns in AI for young Saudi female engineers; and let me say, they have been very impressive.
How do you see Lockheed Martin continuing to contribute to Saudi Arabia’s development and growth?
Concerning the future, we’ve recently announced the appointment of a new Saudi space business development director in the Kingdom. There is an increased interest in space, and as a leading space company partnered with NASA to go back to the Moon, we look forward to partnering with Saudi Arabia to assist the Kingdom in achieving its ambitions in space.