US military eyes KSA for new military testing facility
This comes amid efforts by the US Navy, along with "Israel", Saudi Arabia, and other Middle Eastern countries, to establish a network of unmanned drones to limit Iran's military in the region, as per WSJ.
Three US defense officials aware of the plans revealed that the US military command responsible for the Middle East and Iran is formulating plans to construct a new military testing center in Saudi Arabia.
The center will develop and test new technologies to address the growing danger posed by unmanned drones, as well as integrated air and missile defense capabilities.
Early planning by Central Command, or CENTCOM, included naming the facility the Red Sands Integrated Experimentation Center, a reference to the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, which serves as a US military testing center for long-range missiles.
While the location has not yet been determined, officials believe Saudi Arabia is the best option because it has large open spaces owned by the government and the ability to test various methods of electronic warfare, such as signal jamming and directed energy, without interfering with nearby population centers.
“With the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as the center of gravity for many future regional security endeavors, this is an opportunity,” a US defense official said.
The commander of CENTCOM, Army Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla, proposed the idea in a meeting with several US allies in the region last month. “There was overwhelming support,” said a US official familiar with the discussions.
The testing site plan comes amid growing security cooperation between normalizing Arab governments and "Israel" against Iran.
During President Joe Biden's trip to the Middle East in July, US officials underlined the idea of regional states working together to bolster missile defenses.
Human rights groups and some senators in Washington are likely to criticize the United States for expanding military cooperation with Saudi Arabia after the CIA found that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018, and some members of Congress have urged that the United States should withdraw from the oil-rich country and reconsider its ties with Riyadh.
#JoeBiden has long been championing punishing #SaudiArabia over the assassination of #Saudi journalist #JamalKhashoggi and #Riyadh's grave human rights violations, but it seems that the Kingdom's "pariah" status will have to wait, for the #US needs oil and energy. pic.twitter.com/SMsgIrX81z— Al Mayadeen English (@MayadeenEnglish) June 3, 2022
While there is no solid cost estimate, officials said the US would likely fund around 20% of the cost and provide about 20% of the troops, with allies covering the remainder, according to two US defense officials.
Read next: Biden to visit KSA despite 'pariah' status
The US official revealed that the plan "draws several states into realistic security arrangements" at a time when Kurilla has urged CENTCOM to shift its attention away from a big US military footprint in the region and toward establishing partnerships.
There is no firm timeline for when Red Sands could begin operations, but it is not likely before the end of 2022, the two US defense officials said. A spokesperson for CENTCOM declined to comment on specific details of the planning.
US, KSA, and 'Israel' to build a fleet of drones against Iran
This comes amid efforts by the US Navy, along with "Israel", Saudi Arabia, and other Middle Eastern countries, to establish a network of unmanned drones to limit Iran's military in the region; a program that the Pentagon hopes will serve as a model for operations around the world.
US commanders declined to reveal the number of airborne and marine drones deployed by the US and its partners or to provide data on where and how they are employed, citing secret information.
However, they claim that unmanned vessels and aircraft are providing them with improved visibility over the region's seas.
The Navy plans to have 100 tiny surveillance drones operating from the Suez Canal in Egypt to waters off the Iranian coast by next summer, relaying data to a command center in Bahrain, the headquarters of the US Fifth Fleet.
“I think we are truly on the cusp of an unmanned technological revolution,” said Capt. Michael Brasseur, who heads the US Navy task force working on the drone fleet in the Middle East.