Subscribe Free
in Defence / Features

Saudi refines security after drone attacks

Posted 25 March 2020 · Add Comment

Saudi Arabia’s northern oil refinery in Abqaiq and the Khurais oil field were the subject of a dramatic drone attack on September 14. Alan Warnes reports.

Yemen’s Iranian-aligned Houthi (Ansar Allah) rebels claim to be behind the attack and Iran has denied any involvement, but both the US and Saudi Arabia believe the missiles were fired from Iran.
The Houthis have repeatedly fired rockets, drones and missiles into Saudi Arabia, which is leading an allied strike force to oust them from Yemen.
At the same time, Iran is the subject of crippling US and western sanctions, and the attacks are thought to part of a strategy to bring down the Saudi economy, along with those of its allies. For several days the price of fuel rose, spreading alarm in the markets, but it has now been pegged back.
Four days after the attack, the Saudi Defence Ministry said 18 ‘Delta Wave’ unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) and seven Quds-1 cruise missiles had been fired from the north. But intriguingly, the Saudis have not proved that they were fired from Iran.
Iran has never claimed to operate the Quds-1, which is powered by a Czech PBS TJ-100 jet engine. However, the Houthi/Ansar Allah did showcase one in a weapons display on July 7.
One key question is how did these attacks break through without being shot down by the umbrella of US-built Raytheon Patriot PAC-2 surface-to-air (SAM) missile batteries?
Drones and cruise missiles generally have small radar signatures and are easier to manoeuvre close to the ground, thus reducing the detection range of the longer range SAMs.
Although the Abqaiq oil facility is protected by several Shahine short-range missile systems and radar-guided air defence cannons, they are old not designed to protect against attack from drones or missiles.
Not surprisingly, Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, was keen to exploit any weaknesses in the Patriot system, by inviting the Saudis to Russia to buy the S-400 Triumf system. Turkey has already started taking delivery of the Russian system, which has angered Washington and seen the deterioration in military ties. Iran already operates the S-300.
Alternatively, the Saudis could look at trying to acquire systems that jam the link between the drone and the operator. This recently happened in Libya, when a Turkish system brought down a Chinese Wing Loong II armed drone.
The US undersecretary for policy, John Rood, speaking after the attack said: ‘NATO has not reworked its missile defence and radar systems to keep up with detecting small fast-moving objects.”
The US announced, on September 26, that one Patriot missile defence battery, along with four ground-based Sentinel radars, was being sent to Saudi to improve defences. Personnel specialising in two additional Patriot batteries and one terminal high-altitude area defence system (THAAD) were also given orders to prepare for an imminent deployment.

* required field

Post a comment

Other Stories
Latest News

Wizz Air outlines ambitious GCC plans at the ATM Virtual event

Hungarian low cost carrier Wizz Air has ambitions to become a major force in the GCC once it begins operations from Abu Dhabi this year.

Cargo operator presents PPE to Dubai as a thank you for police efforts

The regional office for the Gulf US cargo operator National Air Cargo has been so impressed with the support of Dubai Police during the coronavirus pandemic that it has donated 100,000 masks and gloves for distribution to the frontline

Why bigger may not be better

The future for air transport? Perhaps a very different format from today’s that will require joined-up thinking from politicians, airports and airlines, suggests Dubai Airports’ CEO, Paul Griffiths. Alan Dron reports.

New flights offered by Emirates as well as resuming transits through its Dubai hub

Following the UAE Federal Government's announcement to lift restrictions on transit passengers services, from 15th June Emirates will offer passenger services to 16 more cities on its Boeing 777-300ER aircraft.

Pegasus relaunches domestic flights

Following the temporary suspension of flights on 28 March 2020 as part of the restrictions to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, Pegasus Airlines has relaunched domestic flights on 1 June 2020 and as of today, 4 June 2020, will be operating 39

Etihad Airways to offer special transfer flights

Etihad Airways will link 20 cities in Europe, Asia and Australia via Abu Dhabi.

AVMENA20 SK14191020
See us at
SaudiAirshow21BT2011180221AVMENA20 BT1309100620MAPS2020 BT1102171120