US planning 'new military testing facility' in Saudi Arabia

US planning 'new military testing facility' in Saudi Arabia
The US is planning to open a new military facility in Saudi Arabia to test 'new technologies' such as unmanned drones, according to American officials quoted in US media on Wednesday.
2 min read
08 September, 2022
US President Joe Biden visited Saudi Arabia in July this year [source: Getty]

The US is planning to open a new military testing facility in Saudi Arabia, ramping up its security cooperation with the Gulf Kingdom just weeks after US President Joe Biden’s regional tour.  

The Red Sands Integrated Experimentation Centre will test new technologies to "combat the growing threat from unmanned drones [and] integrated air and missile defense capabilities", American news organisation NBC reported.

This follows attacks by Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthis on Saudi Arabia, including the destruction of high-profile oil facilities. 

The location of the US military site or when operations will begin is currently unknown. 

"With the kingdom of Saudi Arabia as the centre of gravity for many future regional security endeavours, this is an opportunity," a US defense official said, according to NBC news. 

American officials said Saudia Arabia "makes the most sense" as a partner due to its large open spaces owned by the government. 

The US is likely to fund around 20 percent of the project and provide 20 percent of the personnel. 

The commander of CENTCOM, which is part of the US Department of Defense, is alleged to have proposed the idea during a meeting with US allies in the region last month. 

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The US and Saudi Arabia are long-term partners on a wide range of regional security issues in the Middle East. The Gulf Kingdom is America’s largest foreign military sales customer, with $100 billion "active" sales as of May this year, according to the US State Department. 

Growing voices inside and out of Congress have called on the US to halt this close military partnership given Saudi Arabia's involvement in the devastating Yemen war and its poor human rights record. The CIA concluded that Saudi officials were directly involved in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. 

However, despite an initial pledge to make the kingdom a "pariah", Biden has since visited Saudi Arabia and fist-bumped Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. 

The trip was viewed by US and international analysts as a move to thaw relations amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the revitalisation of the Iran nuclear deal