US and Saudi Arabia finish their initial counter-drone training exercise at the Red Sands testing facility


Riyadh – The United States and Saudi Arabia finished their first combined counter-drone drill last week at a new military testing facility in Riyadh (CENTCOM), according to the commander of US Central Command.

The two militaries engaged in a first-of-its-kind exercise, and US officials intend to repeat it with other armed forces in the area.

Discussions about the Red Sands Experimental Center had been going on for a while. The US military claimed that it would represent an avant-garde method of preparedness and training between Washington and its Middle Eastern allies.

The drills last week were not widely publicised, but officials have stated that this was only the beginning of what they anticipate will be more elaborate and in-depth exercises.

An official with knowledge of the drill claimed that small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) were the main emphasis.

Gen. Erik Kurilla, commander of CENTCOM, said before the House Armed Services Committee on Thursday that the counter-UAS exercises included live-fire simulations and allowed for the analysis of complex threats as well as the identification of gaps in other areas to counter drone activity.

Also, he made a suggestion that directed energy weapons might be introduced into the area in the future, most likely for air defence purposes.

A one-way Iranian attack drone targeted US forces in Syria hours after Gen. Kurilla’s appearance on Senate Hill. Together with another American contractor, five other soldiers also sustained injuries.

As retaliation, the US struck sites inside Syria connected to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, according to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin (IRGC). He said that the American bombings were in retaliation for both the attack on Thursday and a string of recent assaults by Iranian-backed organisations on US and Coalition forces.

Gen. Kurilla reported on Thursday that since January 2021, there have been 78 Iranian strikes on US forces. According to CENTCOM, the US has only reacted three times.

The joint drill last week took place as Saudi Arabia and Iran decided to mend fences and resume diplomatic relations.

Gen. Kurilla was questioned about the agreement multiple times during his hearing on Thursday, but he insisted that it still needed to be put into effect. Kurilla added that despite the Chinese-backed agreement being struck, regional nations continue to be concerned about Iran’s nefarious activities.

The Red Sands exercises are a significant way for the US to demonstrate continued commitment to Saudi Arabia and to foster regional cooperation among Middle East allies in ways that go beyond conventional security assistance programmes like foreign military sales, according to Melissa Horvath, a non-resident senior fellow at the Middle East Institute (MEI).’

The US has been charged with abandoning the Middle East in recent years in order to address Russia’s and China’s more immediate dangers. Since the Biden administration entered office and the Russian conflict on Ukraine began, this narrative has gained momentum.

Following this month’s diplomatic success between Riyadh and Tehran, which Beijing brokered, criticism of the administration increased. According to Washington, China delivered at the end of the negotiations and claimed credit for what had been planned for years.

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