Riyadh: The second World Defense Show is preparing to begin in February, revealing some of the industry titans and senior government figures who will address the show’s visitors and exhibitors over four days.

Under the patronage of King Salman, WDS 2024 will be held between Feb. 4 to Feb. 8 in Riyadh. It will host the exclusive Future Defense Leadership Forum on preview day, followed by four days of interactive industry discussion and demonstration in the main conference room and across dedicated content theaters, in three of the exhibition halls.

“We are delighted to confirm an exciting program of industry-leading international and regional speakers, who will address visitors and exhibitors in people, technology and capability-focused discussions,” said Andrew Pearcey, CEO, World Defense Show.  

“World Defense Show is not just an exhibition of ground-breaking technology, the event offers a chance for the leaders in the field of defense to convene for the shared purpose of addressing the challenges facing the industry and the world. WDS’s role as an enabler of global collaboration will extend beyond the event itself, providing a platform for countries to engage in international cooperation,” he said.

The Future Defense Leadership Forum at the World Defense Show 2024 will begin with an address by Ahmad Abdulaziz Al-Ohali, governor of the General Authority for Military Industries. This event, attended by high-level government and private-sector delegates from the global defense industry, is set to delve into national policy, technology and innovation, offering insights into both Saudi and global perspectives on defense and security challenges over the next decade.

The forum will feature a series of keynote addresses, including “Enhancing KSA’s Investment Ecosystem” by Khalid Al-Falih, minister of investment, and a discussion on “Defense Force Readiness” by General Fayyadh Al-Ruwaili, chief of the general staff of the Saudi Arabian Armed Forces.

Ahmed Al-Khateeb, chairman of SAMI, will address “Security and Stability in the New Saudi Era,” underscoring the importance of innovation and adaptation in defense technology.

The forum will also host key panel discussions. “The People Challenge: Attracting, Upskilling and Retaining the Right Talent for the Defense sector” will bring together Prof. Haluk Gorgun, president of the Defense Industry Agency in Turkiye; Walid Abukhaled, CEO of SAMI; Sulaiman Albabtain, CEO and chairman of SOFON Industries; and Eric Beranger, CEO of MBDA.

Another significant panel, “Innovating at the Speed of Relevance: Managing the Defense Technology Challenge,” will feature Dr. Faleh Al-Sulaiman, governor of GADD; Dr. Charles Woodburn, CEO of BAE Systems; Stephanie C. Hill, president of rotary and mission systems at Lockheed Martin; and Pierre Eric Pommellet, chairman and CEO of Naval Group.

The second day will be held under the theme of “Innovation,” hosting leading industry figures such as Rob Merriweather, technology director, BAE Systems, and Chris Brown, vice president, strategy and global business development, general dynamics, leading a panel on achieving innovation goals across the industry.

On the topic of environmental sustainability in the defense industry, Tim Cahill, president, missiles and fire control, Lockheed Martin, will discuss exploiting innovation across the battlespace along with General (retd) Tom Middendorp, chairman, International Military Council on Climate and Security, and former chief of defense of the Netherlands. Nichola Bates, managing partner at Aerospace Xelerated and head of global accelerators and innovation programs, Boeing, will provide insight on defense innovation units to foster collaboration with startups.

Technology development is in the spotlight on Day 3, with Major Gen. (rtd) Adam Findlay, former commander, special operations for Australia, addressing civilian-military technology development and cooperation, and Sir Stu Atha, director of training strategy, BAE Systems, providing insight on the future of human machine interface, and Stephanie Hill, president, rotary and mission systems, Lockheed Martin, discussing transforming aerospace and defense for the 21st century.

The International Women in Defense program makes a return, too, building on the huge success of the program in 2022, spearheaded by Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to the US Princess Reema bint Bandar.

The event will also feature Heidi Grant, vice president of defense, global growth and engagement at Boeing Defense, space and security, who will be joined by national diversity champions and industry figureheads including Maj. Gen. Adel Al-Balawi, head of the Armed Forces Education and Training Authority, Saudi Arabia.

On Day 5, the Future Talent program will recognize the importance of nurturing and developing the next generation of defense professionals. The session will be opened with a keynote address by Yousef bin Abdullah Al-Benyan, minister of education, setting the stage for discussions on the future of human capital in defense. 

The excitement around the theaters continues to build, with further senior management and mentors from industry primes confirming daily.

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