“We’ve seen this coming,” but governments “haven’t been preparing to go after not only UAS but cruise missiles.”
THE PENTAGON: The Trump administration said today it’s shipping more air defense weapons to Saudi Arabia in response to the devastating Sept. 14 drone and cruise missile attack on a major oil facility there. But it’s not clear if the new hardware — a Patriot missile launcher, 200 more troops, and four 360-degree Sentinel radars — would be the best defense against the next attack if it follows a similar pattern. The problem is that existing US systems aren’t designed to stop this kind of low-flying, relatively inexpensive threat.
In a statement, Pentagon spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman said the deployment “will augment the kingdom’s air and missile defense of critical military and civilian infrastructure.” The Pentagon has tried to enlist allies to send more assets to the region, though no firm commitments have been made yet. “Other countries have called out Iranian misadventures in the region,” Hoffman noted, “and we look for them to contribute assets in an international effort to reinforce Saudi Arabia’s defense.”
The US will also put two more Patriot batteries along with a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system (THAAD) on standby for rapid deployment.
The existing Saudi radars are limited in only being able to “look” in one general direction at a time, and they’re usually pointed south to defend against Houthi missile attacks from Yemen — leaving flightlines from Iran and Iraq mostly exposed. American and Saudi officials have yet to provide enough details to pinpoint where the swarm came from, but the Sentinel radar, while fairly short-ranged, constantly rotates to watch for threats from all directions. It could also be mounted in an elevated position in order to “see” low-flying threats that would normally be hidden behind the horizon.