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US military studying plans to build testing center in Saudi Arabia: CENTCOM

While the plans are still in their conceptual phase, the center would allow US and coalition forces to increase their interoperability and counter a wide variety of unmanned aerial systems and threats, CENTCOM spokesman Lt. Col. Dave Eastburn said.

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The US military is studying plans to develop a military testing center in Saudi Arabia, according to the United States Central Command (CENTCOM).

“The idea of a ‘Red Sands Experimentation Center’ is an innovative approach to training and readiness between our Middle East partners and the United States,” CENTCOM spokesman Lt. Col. Dave Eastburn said in a statement to Al Arabiya English.

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While the plans are still in their conceptual phase, the move first reported by NBC News would allow US and coalition forces to increase their interoperability and “counter a wide variety of unmanned aerial systems and threats.”

A US defense official told NBC News that “with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as the center of gravity for many future regional security endeavors, this is an opportunity.”

Eastburn said the concept was being developed as CENTCOM looks for innovative ways to enhance Washington’s strategic partnerships in the region and “to build on the successful efforts of our partners to grow peace and stability in the region.”

According to sources familiar with the matter, the testing center was discussed during US President Joe Biden’s visit to Saudi Arabia over the summer.

Ties between Washington and Riyadh had soured since Biden was elected as US president and made several foreign policy decisions, which were seen as targeting Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

But his trip to Saudi Arabia, despite significant pushback and criticism from so-called progressive Democrats, was a sign that the US president is keen on maintaining firm bilateral ties.

And last month, the Biden administration approved the sale of 300 Patriot missiles to Saudi Arabia in a deal worth $3.05 billion and another contract worth $2.25 billion to the UAE for 96 Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile rounds.

“[The new center] is part of the process of putting defense ties back on track,” said Bilal Saab, Defense and Security Program Director at the Washington-based Middle East Institute (MEI).

Eastburn, the CENTCOM spokesman, said the new testing facility would be a “shining example that cooperation and innovation are paramount to both our partner and to US Central Command, in support of our shared vision for a peaceful and prosperous Middle East.”

Read more: US approves sale of Patriot missiles to Saudi Arabia, THAAD system missiles for UAE

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