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.
 

Other Stories
Advertisement
Latest News

EgyptAir to start operations between Cairo and Doha

After Egypt’s decision to reopen its airspace to Qatar, EgyptAir will commence a daily flight between Cairo and Doha from January 18.

Children fly for free with Etihad Airways

Adults who book their next flight to Abu Dhabi or Dubai with Etihad Airways, the national airline of the UAE, can take their children for free.

Emirates Airlines adds two more flights into Durban

Emirates Airline will add two more flights into Durban from February 1 which means that the airline will now fly a daily scheduled air service between Durban and Dubai.

Is this the ‘new norm’ for events?

The Dubai HeliShow is set to go ahead in January in both physical and 3D virtual format.

Wizz Air Abu Dhabi adds Tel Aviv to its route network

Wizz Air Abu Dhabi has added Tel Aviv to its network, launching on February 12.

Etihad Airways awarded diamond status in the APEX Health Safety

Etihad Airways has been awarded the Diamond status in the inaugural ‘APEX Health Safety, powered by SimpliFlying’ audit, for efforts in ensuring the highest standards of cleanliness and sanitisation.

IDEX 2021 SK26221
See us at
Aviation Africa 2021 BTNNAviation MENA 2021IDEX 2021 BT26221CONNECT BT0610090421World Defence Show 2022