Red Sands Integrated Experimentation Center, a new military testing facility of the United States, will soon rise on Arabian soil with its early planning stages currently underway, three US defense officials announced last week.
According to news reports, the facility will serve as a testing site for future combat technologies that would stifle the increasing threat, particularly from hostile unmanned drones surveilling the region. It will also “develop and test integrated air and missile defense capabilities,” NBC reported.
Three US service members were reportedly injured in two separate rocket attacks in Syria in mid-August. In retaliation, the US employed an AH-64 Apache attack helicopter, AC-130 gunships, and M777 artillery, killing four Iran-affiliated militants and destroying seven of their rocket launchers after two hours of fighting. This is just one of the attacks by hostile militants surrounding the Arabian allies.
US Central Command (CENTCOM) spokesperson Lt. Col. Dave Eastburn said in an interview that the Red Sands Integrated Experimentation Center, once completed, will serve as a training and readiness center between the Middle East partners and the US.
“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,” Eastburn explained.
While it is still in the planning stages, this new facility will be similar to the White Sands Missile Range, a US military testing facility for long-range missiles in New Mexico. The idea was reportedly proposed by CENTCOM commander General Michael Kurilla during his Saudi Arabia visit in July and accordingly received “overwhelming support” from the allies in the region.
“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,” Eastburn added.
CENTCOM has yet to disclose the exact location of the new facility; nonetheless, US officials have highlighted that the large, open space the government of Saudi Arabia gives the US military the ability to safely test its “electronic warfare technology, such as signal-jamming and directed energy systems, without interfering with nearby population centers.”
“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 said.
Aside from the location, the conception of the new testing site also came to mind as tensions between Arab states and Israel against Iran alarmingly increased in recent years, one of which was the “missile and drone attacks launched by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen targeting oil facilities and other infrastructure in Saudi Arabia,” NBC noted.
Security has been heightened more stringently since, and just recently, the military flew its nuclear-capable B-52H Stratofortresses bombers over the Middle East in a show of force.
Likewise, incumbent President Joe Biden flew to Saudi Arabia in July to meet with the nation’s leaders and reevaluate bolstering their missile defenses.
“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 in a statement released on July 15, 2022. “President Biden affirmed the United States’ commitment […] to integrate and enhance security cooperation,” adding that the US is committed to upgrading its missile defenses and effectively countering any retaliation from hostile Arabian neighbors.
Two defense officials told NBC that no cost estimate is available for the facility as of writing, nor a decisive timeline on when the Red Sands could begin its operations—probably be released before the end of 2022.
Meanwhile, CENTCOM worked with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia last month on preparing for a field training exercise, the Concept Development Conference of Exercise EAGLE RESOLVE 23, in the Middle Eastern states slated for May-June 2023.
A press release stated that “the annual exercise is designed to develop and employ a Combined Joint Task Force capable of responding to the complexity of the current and regional threats in the United States Central Command area of responsibility.”
CENTCOM Air Force General Steven J. deMilliano said that this joint military exercise aims to strengthen the forces’ abilities to” protect the population and infrastructure” in the region. “This exercise is designed to enhance regional, civil, and military interoperability along with process development, honing the skills necessary to implement crisis management and defend the skies from inbound threats,” deMilliano added, who is also the Director of Exercise and Training Directorate.