Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia visited Boeing’s Everett jet assembly plant Friday and announced a military deal with the jetmaker, as he plans to meet other business leaders during his secretive visit to the Seattle area, the Seattle Times reports.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s private VIP 747 jumbo jet, inbound from New York, landed at Paine Field in Everett just after 2 p.m. Friday for a tour of Boeing — his first West Coast stop on a three-week U.S. trip to refashion the image of Saudi Arabia in the eyes of Americans.
After a tour of the widebody jet plant that built his airplane, the 32-year-old crown prince looked on as Boeing Chairman and Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg signed a memorandum of agreement to set up a $450 million joint venture in Saudi Arabia that will provide maintenance and repair support for the kingdom’s military aircraft, the Seattle Times adds.
In an advance draft itinerary obtained by The Seattle Times, meetings were also penciled in with Amazon and Microsoft executives, with Bill Gates and with former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who lives in the state.
The crown prince, effectively the power behind the throne held by his father, is here to rebrand the image of the desert kingdom that’s best known for its vast oil wealth and adherence to a strict fundamentalist brand of Sunni Islam, and to discuss a diversification of its economy away from oil, the Seattle Times notes.
The crown prince presents himself as a liberalizing modern, reforming and opening up the claustrophobic kingdom and in particular allowing more freedom to women, and he just lifted a 35-year-long ban on cinemas and allowed Saudi women for the first time to attend mixed-gender public entertainments such as soccer games.
The agreement announced in Everett on Friday will form a joint venture between Boeing and state-owned Saudi Arabian Military Industries (SAMI) that will become the sole provider of maintenance support for the Saudi air force’s fleet of military jets.
The idea is to build up local expertise within Saudi Arabia, furthering the crown prince’s Vision 2030 plan. The agreement will create 6,000 jobs in Saudi Arabia, Boeing said.
In a news release, H.E. Ahmed Al-Khateeb, chairman of SAMI, said the joint venture with Boeing will help build “a strong autonomous military-industries ecosystem in the Kingdom.”
The joint venture was part of the package of U.S. defense deals touted last May during Trump’s state visit to Saudi Arabia. Boeing CEO Muilenburg accompanied the president on that trip.