The U.S. military is developing a new testing facility in Saudi Arabia to help stifle an increasing number of threats to the region.
First reported by NBC, three U.S. defense officials told the outlet that U.S. Central Command — which has an area of responsibility that includes the Middle East — is in the early planning stages of the new facility, which will be called Red Sands Integrated Experimentation Center.
“Still in the conceptual phase of development, 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,” U.S. CENTCOM spokesperson Lt. Col. Dave Eastburn told Military Times.
Officials told NBC News that the ultimate location has not yet been finalized, but noted that the country was chosen because of its ability to safely test “various methods of electronic warfare, like signal-jamming and directed energy” in large open spaces owned by the Saudi government.
The idea for the new facility was reportedly proposed by CENTCOM commander Gen. Michael Kurilla, who visited Saudi Arabia in July to meet with the Arab state’s armed forces and to discuss regional cooperation, according to a CENTCOM press release.
“This concept is one that’s being developed as CENTCOM looks for innovative ways to enhance the strong strategic partnerships that have existed in the region and to build on the successful efforts of our partners to grow peace and stability in the region,” said Eastburn.
The plans for the new testing site come as tensions with Iran and other neighboring states are on the rise. On Sunday, the military flew nuclear-capable B-52 long-distance bombers over the Middle East in a show of force. Last month, the State Department cleared a possible weapons sale to both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
President Biden also visited Saudi Arabia in July, meeting with the nation’s leaders to discuss partnerships between the countries.
“The United States affirmed it would accelerate our cooperation with Saudi Arabia and other partners in the region to counter unmanned aerial systems and missiles that threaten the peace and security of the region,” the White House said at the time.
A cost estimate for the facility and an operational timeline for Red Sands is unclear at this time, but it likely will not materialize before the end of 2022, the defense officials told NBC.
U.S. CENTCOM is also working with Saudi Arabia to plan for a field training exercise in the Middle Eastern state sometime in May or June of next year, according to a CENTCOM press release from August.
Jonathan is a staff writer and editor of the Early Bird Brief newsletter for Military Times. Follow him on Twitter @lehrfeld_media