Report: $9.4 billion network
to secure Saudi borders

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Saudi Arabia has approved the procurement of a huge C4I security network worth $9.4 billion as part of a project to ensure border security, according to a new report.

The report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies said the Saudi Interior Ministry has approved a system developed by the Paris-based Thales that would establish a security zone along the 6,500 kilometers of the kingdom's land and sea borders. The report said the system would undergo installation starting in the fourth quarter of 2004.

The report was co-authored by former Pentagon official Anthony Cordesman and Saudi security consultant Nawaf Obaid. The report cited Obaid as a consultant to the Saudi security services.

In March, French industry sources said Saudi Arabia was prepared to sign with Thales an estimated $8.8 billion deal for the C4I system. Riyad refused to confirm nor deny the report, Middle East Newsline reported.

"The Ministry of Interior has approved a $9.4 billion contract with the French government to install an electronic defensive shield along this border in the fall of 2004," the report, "Saudi Internal Security: A Risk Assessment," said.

For a decade, Saudi Arabia has been examining proposals for a border surveillance system that would use patrol aircraft, unmanned air vehicles vehicles, and early warning systems to detect intruders and border crossings. The report said Riyad has sought a 12 kilometer-deep security zone around all 6,500 kilometers of the land and sea borders.

Such a system would integrate acoustic, seismic, radar, magnetic, and infrared sensors to detect movements of people and vehicles in the border area. In 1990, Thomson CSF, the predecessor of Thales, completed a $5 million feasibility study.

In 1991, Thomson and E Systems led separate consortiums that submitted bids for the border security system. The report said the system was not funded because of cost and the assessment that the border network could be penetrated.

At that time, the report said, the estimated cost of the security system was $3 billion. Saudi Arabia was told the system would require several years for completion.

"These problems are expected to be solved by the installation of a much more technically sophisticated system," the report said.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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