The Defence & Aviation Ministry has invited bids by 13 May from leading local contractors for the contract, which is estimated to be worth several hundred million dollars. Prospective bidders have started to approach international suppliers of specialist equipment and services such as fencing, surveillance equipment and installation supervision.
The project involves the construction of a 900-kiliometre-long, double-line fence that will include 135 electronically controlled sliding gates, fence-mounted ultraviolet intruder detection sensors, buried radio detection sensors and concertina razor wire along its entire length.
Border security is a priority issue for Saudi Arabia, which is seeking to crack down on terrorists and smugglers crossing its borders. Weapons and explosives used in recent terrorist attacks in the kingdom are thought to have been smuggled into the kingdom either through the Yemen or Iraq borders.
Since the mid-1990s, Riyadh has been examining proposals for a border surveillance system that would use patrol aircraft, unmanned air vehicles and early warning systems to detect intruders and border crossings. The plan includes a 12 kilometre-deep security zone around all 6,500 kilometres of the kingdom's borders.
In March 2004, Riyadh was reported to be close to awarding a $8,800 million deal to France for the installation of the command, control, communications computer and intelligence (C4I) system, but a deal is still to be signed. Sources in Riyadh say that it is still under consideration and featured in talks between France's President Chirac and King Abdullah during Chirac's visit to the kingdom in early March (see Cover Story, pages 4-6).