The United States deployment of Army air and missile defense Soldiers with a Patriot Battery and four Sentinel radars to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is an extremely powerful strategic and regional message of action towards Iran as a consequence for the 360 degree drone attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil fields. U.S. Sentinel Radars provide 360 degree sensor coverage and are already deployed in the National Capital Region (NCR) with National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System (NASAMS) interceptors and are also in the Middle East with Patriot batteries for 360 degree sensor defense against drones and cruise missiles. U.S. Patriot systems are also forward deployed in other regions around the world on critical U.S. air bases that project regional power and U.S. command and control centers and will now do the same mission in Saudi Arabia. The U.S. has deployed Patriot Batteries to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia prior to the start of the two Gulf Wars in protection of U.S. command and control as well as defense of critical air bases that project U.S. power located in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia adds depth and distance to current U.S. bases in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It is relevant to note Saudi Arabia asked the United States to withdraw all non-training U.S. forces, to include U.S. Army Patriots, from Saudi Arabia territory in 2003. All Gulf Coalition Council (GCC) states, with the exception of Oman, have continued with U.S. Patriot deployments to defend U.S. bases on their territories since the Gulf Wars. This request to bring U.S. forces back into the Kingdom by Saudi Arabia is a tremendous statement of commitment to set the conditions to win against Iran and to lead the GCC in missile defense against Iran.
Though Saudi Arabia has the most deployed missile defense sensors and interceptor capacity in their country of any of the GCC countries – with capabilities to detect, warn, track and intercept all of the drones that attacked their oil fields two weeks ago – these systems were ineffective and not used or applied to prevent the attack. Sharing sensor data from all of Saudi Arabia’s radars and sensors with the United States sensors in the region could have provided Saudi Arabia with a more capable, redundant, and additional layer of awareness of early warning to Saudi Arabian command and control, as well as to their missile defense operators to best prepare to track and shoot down the incoming drones. Further sharing of sensor data, operational expertise, and planning from the United States to Saudi Arabia would have also helped Saudi Arabia’s defense design architecture for the placement of their sensors and shooters for best effectiveness. As a result of the Iranian successful drone attack on the Saudi Arabian oil fields, increased substantial new bilateral agreements of sharing all sensor data with the United States will take place. Bilateral missile defense agreements to share sensor data with the United States are in the best interest of Saudi Arabia to best protect and defend their Kingdom from Iran. It would suffice to say that bilateral missile defense agreements with each of the other GCC countries in the Middle East with the United States to share their sensor data is in each of their best national security interests.
Most important is for each of the GCC countries to develop their own air and missile defense Doctrine, Organization, Training, Materiel, Leadership and Education, Personnel, Facilities and Policy (DOTMLPF-P) and not be as reliant on the United States for these critical areas in their defense of their nation. When nations are operating without partnerships and bilateral agreements on missile defense, they must rely on their own organic DOTMLPF-P development and if it is not mature as it is with every GCC country and a priority then they will suffer consequences as it happened to Saudi Arabia. No matter how much capacity and capability of weapon systems a country has, if their DOTMLPF-P is not mature, then they will still be unable to provide sound enough defense to sustain against a capable missile and drone threat from Iran for their national security.
The GCC has formed a working group in attempt to address this mission of Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) that meets annually and is supported by the U.S. Department of State. As the GCC is not NATO and face several challenges – due to their tribal nature, internal politics, rifts between Gulf states and culture amongst themselves – to move forward with a collective alliance that can share data collectively with each other as a group is an extremely difficult goal to achieve. The IAMD mission with successful combat Patriot experience from Saudi Arabia and UAE of not integrating their systems has not been taken seriously enough by the GCC as an alliance to fully engage, listen and follow in depth and breadth of U.S. military advice for integration. The diplomatic effort needs to be at the forefront to continue to drive cooperation in the GCC, but it is the GCC themselves that have to be committed to this long term goal of making the Gulf Region safer than it is today from missile threats.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is taking a leadership position as it has reached its tipping point and has changed direction with the United States for the missile defense mission for the betterment of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Region.
U.S. Patriot air defense units with their Soldiers prove once again that they are first to be demanded by the Combatant Commanders to be deployed first in crisis situations. They set the conditions to win and they are first to fire in conflict as they did in the first Gulf War with the first Patriot Intercepts in the defense of U.S. command and control in Saudi Arabia.