World Defense Show 2026

Interview with Mr Andrew Pearcey, Chief Executive Officer of the World Defense Show at Eurosatory 2024, Paris

21 June 2024

Interview with Mr Andrew Pearcey, Chief Executive Officer of the World Defense Show at Eurosatory 2024, Paris

DPI - Andy, please explain about the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 and how WDS is playing a leading role in the economic reform of the Saudi Arabian Military Industry?

Andrew Pearcey - Sure, everything in the Kingdom is driven by Vision 2030, which is a clear, economic strategy to drive growth of the Kingdom across all sectors. The show launched in 2022, and one of its core roles was to support Vision 2030 for the for the defence industry. Vision 2023 has become a driver for the show and there is a lot of big spending in defence as well as other sectors. So it came from the top down, we want to be the number one defence show in the world.

DPI - Explain about ‘localisation’ of defence manufacturing and how the Kingdom aims at a 50% increase over the next decade?

Andrew Pearcey - We are here to support the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 and also show the international companies how they can get involved with Vision 2030. 50% localisation sounds like Saudi Arabia is trying to become independent. It is not. It actually is about showing the international markets how they can get involved with the Kingdom and support it, because the local industry can't do it on its own. They need collaborations and partnerships.

DPI – Please expand further.

Andrew Pearcey – The World Defense Show runs for two key reasons. The first one is to drive local industry and let more industry come through the smaller companies and sell a lot of innovation. In addition, we have the big boys like SAMI who are the actual industry partner and GAMI who are the government regulator, so the show helps to promote them as well. This will help drive the proposed 50% increase.

The second part is getting international companies involved, showing them opportunities to work with local companies and also the Saudi Government, which can be lucrative. They can show their own products for export, all driving an increase in trade.

DPI - 2026 will be the third edition of WDS with the Ministry of Defence being the main partner, along with SAMI and GAMI, can you tell us a little about them?

Andrew Pearcey - Sure, the General Authority of Military Industries, GAMI, is the founder of the World Defense Show. So I work for GAMI and they are the founder and organiser. GAMI is also the industry regulator for all the licences for defence products, all export licences are controlled by them.

SAMI is the industry partner. A similar model to that of the EDGE Group in Abu Dhabi, they manufacture military products in the Kingdom. There are also companies like INTRA, but SAMI is a great sponsor and partner and other big prime contactors come through them.

The Saudi Arabian MOD are integral to our part and the Chief of Staff of the of MOD sits on my steering committee for the show. They are a main partner because of assets, personnel and everything they put into the show. The show couldn't happen without the MOD. So you've got government coming in from GAMI and the MOD, and the show wouldn’t happen without them.

DPI - Riyadh is a very popular destination at the moment with Riyadh Season, can you tell us about the ‘venue’ and the free transportation to and from the event?

Andrew Pearcey – The whole event industry is booming out there, boxing matches, Formula One, Formula E's, music gigs, it is happening. There's plenty of excitement around these events and Riyadh is now geared-up for this. Lots of hotels, good restaurants, a great place to be.

The WDS venue is purpose-built, we built a runway as we need to fly aeroplane and aircraft and do demonstrations. VIPs can fly in directly. We built a new exhibition centre for the show.

Since it is half an hour from the centre of Riyadh, we have to put on free transport for people. There are buses that go from all our key hotel partners. We are constantly working on that. We are hoping that there will be more things happening for 2026 to make it even easier. Taxis should also make transport easier.

DPI - There are already a lot of international prime contractors exhibiting at WDS, tell us about the WDS ‘networking platform’ and what it has to offer?

Andrew Pearcey – We run a programme called B to B Connect, a networking platform that sets up meetings between buyers and sellers. This is actually a rather traditional, where two people sit down opposite each other, which is proper meeting, you sit down and meet them and we instigate it all and get people to come and do that.

We also have other networking opportunities, in the form of conferences and we also have a meet the KSA Government programme, so people can come and understand how they can get involved with GAMI, understand how they can get involved with SAMI and the MOD. Each person from the government comes and gives a speech, and then they all meet. So that's great networking opportunity. At the next show in 2026, we're looking at being a bit more digital and letting people organise meetings via the World Defense Show app.

We will also try and do some more high profile, high-level meetings for the prime contractors separately. So I'm looking to expand that networking programme.

DPI - Andrew, you have been a key player and leader since the show’s inception. Tell us your ‘future vision’ for WDS; who do hope to attract and how will you grow in coming years?

Andrew Pearcey – Well, I think we've seen exponential growth since we started. I think everyone including the Kingdom has been pleasantly surprised about the growth of the show. We have gone from our first show to where we are in 2024 and by the time we get to 2026, I think we will be on a par with Eurosatory, DSEI, and IDEX in terms of size. We are heading in the right direction and my vision is for it to be a truly international.

We must make sure we're getting a high level of the top 100 defence companies there. We're already getting there, but that is our target, to make sure they're all coming, and position it as a show for technology and that helps the Kingdom get through their mission and vision around what they want in innovation. We want to be number one, that is the vision and you can measure that in different ways. It's not just the size, it's about quality and making sure the right people are coming and that the defence industry keeps coming back. At the moment they seem quite happy.