US-made Patriot interceptor missiles. (Photo credit: CSIS)
Saudi Arabia is reportedly running low on ammunition for its advanced missile defense systems and has allegedly “pleaded” with the US and its Gulf and European allies for a resupply.
According to a report by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) published on 7 December, US and Saudi officials have confirmed that the kingdom’s stock of Patriot interceptor missiles “has fallen dangerously low.”
The news comes less than a day after Yemen’s Ansarallah resistance movement launched several ballistic missiles and armed drones deep inside Saudi territory, even reaching the kingdom’s capital Riyadh.
Earlier this year, the US removed its most advanced missile defense systems and other military hardware and personnel from Saudi Arabia in order to redeploy them elsewhere in the Asian continent.
“This decision was made in close coordination with host nations and with a clear eye on preserving our ability to meet our security commitments. It’s about maintaining some of our high demand, low density assets so they are ready for future requirements in the event of a contingency,” the Pentagon said in a statement last June.
The redeployment of Washington’s war arsenal is part of a renewed strategy to confront what Pentagon officials refer to as “the threats of the future,” referring to China and Russia.
Following the redeployment of the US arsenal in September, Saudi officials said that the kingdom “is capable of defending its lands, seas and airspace, and protecting its people.”
Nonetheless, the WSJ report casts doubt over this declaration as, over recent months, attacks on Saudi territory coming from Yemen have increased significantly. On 3 December, the US special envoy for Yemen, Timothy Lenderking, said that Ansarallah forces have conducted about 375 cross-border attacks this year alone.
In response to the Saudis’ request for a resupply of the interceptor missiles, US officials reportedly believe they have an “obligation” to help the kingdom, despite concerns of the Biden administration over Saudi history of human rights violations, the six-year war in Yemen and the October 2018 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
However, experts believe that more missile interceptors will not address the longer-term budget problem, as these missiles cost about $1 million a piece and are being used to defend against Yemeni drones that have been described as “$10,000 flying lawn mowers.”