(Photo credit: Reuters)
US officials that spoke with NBC News this week revealed that the US army is developing a new testing facility in Saudi Arabia, as part of Washington’s newest effort to maintain military supremacy in West Asia.
“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 is quoted as saying by the western news outlet.
The base will be known as the “Red Sands Integrated Experimentation Center,” and will be administered by the US Central Command (CENTCOM).
This base will reportedly be used to test and integrate air and missile defense capabilities.
CENTCOM Commander Michael Kurilla revealed the plan in a meeting with a number of regional US allies last month. “There was overwhelming support,” a US official familiar with the discussions told NBC News.
While the testing facility’s exact location has yet to be determined, CENTCOM officials say they chose the kingdom for its ability to safely test “various methods of electronic warfare, like signal-jamming and directed energy” in large open spaces.
There is also no firm cost estimate yet, however, officials said that Washington will likely fund 20 percent of the price tag and provide at least 20 percent of the personnel needed, while allies would cover the rest.
The Pentagon has also been collaborating with Israel, Saudi Arabia, and other nations in West Asia over the past six months to create a network of unmanned drones, with the goal of countering Iran in the Persian Gulf.
Despite his campaign promises to end unchecked military cooperation with Saudi Arabia, over recent months US President Joe Biden has done a complete about face from earlier decisions, in a desperate push to rekindle relations with the kingdom.
Just last month, the White House approved a $5.3 billion arms sales deal to both Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
In July, Biden travelled to Jeddah to meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) — the man the CIA blamed for the torture and dismemberment of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi — in a fruitless bid to ask his Gulf allies to boost oil production levels.
The Pentagon also recently launched a campaign to hasten arms sales to its allies, in a bid to compete with other world powers and to replenish the stockpiles of countries who have provided Ukraine with weapons and military equipment.