Forging the Future of Defence

WDS Fuels Saudi’s Vision 2030 Through Collaboration & Innovation

Andrew Pearcey
CEO, World Defense Show (WDS)

The World Defense Show aligns closely with Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 by serving as a critical platform for defence collaboration and innovation. The event fosters economic diversification by acting as a gateway to the Saudi defence industry and promoting strategic partnerships. WDS supports the goal of localising more than 50% of military expenditure by 2030, offering unique opportunities for investment and engagement. “We envision WDS continuing its upward trajectory, becoming an even more influential event for the global defence industry. We aim to maintain WDS as a must-attend event for global companies across the defence supply chain,” said Andrew Pearcey, CEO, World Defense Show (WDS). In an interview with Arabian Defence, he talks about how WDS’ success, how it has evolved into one of the important defence events in the world, and its way forward.

How did WDS become an important calendar event within a short span of its inception?
World Defense Show has quickly become a pivotal event in the global defence calendar due to our steadfast commitment to showcasing cutting-edge technological developments and fostering international cooperation. In 2024, we hosted 773 exhibitors and welcomed over 106,000 trade visitors from around the world. This rapid growth and a strong focus on innovation and collaboration have cemented our place as a key event in the global defence industry.

What were the highlights of WDS 2024, and what are the plans for the 2026 edition?
Overall, WDS 2024 was a resounding success, reinforcing its position as a premier global platform for defence innovation and cooperation, while significantly contributing to the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, with an impressive turnout of 773 exhibitors, 106,000 trade visitors, and 441 delegations from 116 countries.
Building on this success, I am proud to share that we have already sold 50% of the floor space for WDS 2026, indicating strong interest and confidence in our event. For 2026, we plan to expand interactive exhibits, enhance networking opportunities, and introduce new features to support innovation in the defense sector. Our goal is to continuously improve and provide greater value to our exhibitors and attendees.

Can you elaborate on the key features and programmes of WDS 2024 that contributed to its success?
The success of WDS 2024 stems from several key features and programs. The Future of Defense hub, a cornerstone of our show, brought together R&D centers, universities, and start-ups to showcase innovations shaping the future of defence. Networking is central to WDS, with extensive opportunities provided through the B2B Connect program, enabling thousands of business meetings. The Meet the KSA Government programme offered exhibitors direct access to Saudi defence stakeholders, enhancing strategic partnerships.
Our Content Theaters, featuring 90 sessions and 175 speakers, attracted 4,000 attendees and covered crucial topics like future defence strategies and technology integration. Additionally, International Women in Defense program underscored our commitment to diversity, featuring sessions with senior speakers and drawing hundreds of attendees. These combined efforts testify to the show’s commitment to advancing the defence sector.

How does WDS align with and propel the Kingdom’s Vision 2030?
World Defense Show aligns closely with Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 by serving as a critical platform for defence collaboration and innovation. The event fosters economic diversification by acting as a gateway to the Saudi defence industry and promoting strategic partnerships. WDS supports the goal of localising more than 50% of military expenditure by 2030, offering unique opportunities for investment and engagement through initiatives like the Meet the KSA Government Programme and the Future Talent Program. These programmes not only provide valuable insights into the Kingdom’s defence sector but also connect international and local stakeholders, driving forward Saudi Arabia’s vision of a robust, self-sufficient defence industry.

How does WDS address defence needs at local, regional, and global levels?
WDS meets defence needs on multiple levels by showcasing the latest technologies and promoting strategic partnerships. Locally, we connect Saudi companies with international players, enhancing expertise exchange. Regionally, we act as a hub for Middle Eastern defence interests. Globally, we attract participants from around the world, offering extensive networking opportunities and hosting discussions on defense issues through conferences and panels featuring industry leaders.

How significant is WDS as a global event, particularly for French defence companies?
WDS is a major international event on the defence industry calendar. In 2024, participation of French companies grew by 40%. The show featured a diverse range of international exhibitors, including major French players like CMN Naval, Daher, and Dassault Systemes, as well as other European companies such as Airbus and Leonardo.

How do you see WDS evolving in the future?
We envision WDS continuing its upward trajectory, becoming an even more influential event for the global defence industry. Our plans include increasing our focus on innovative technologies and enhancing the overall experience for exhibitors and attendees. By continuously evolving, we aim to maintain WDS as a must-attend event for global companies across the defence supply chain.

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