US, Saudi Arabia conclude region’s largest-ever counter-UAS exercise

US, Saudi Arabia conclude region’s largest-ever counter-UAS exercise
# 16 September 2023 01:06 (UTC +04:00)

The US and Saudi Arabia conducted the largest-ever counter-UAS exercise in the Middle East this week, the American colonel overseeing the drills told Al Arabiya English, APA reports.

Speaking from Riyadh, where the exercise was held, Col. Robert McVey provided details on the second round of this type of drill.
Red Sands 23.2 was a follow up to Red Sands 23.1, which was held in March.

Moving forward, the US colonel said there will be two similar exercises a year. “Planning for Red Sands 24.1 has already begun,” Col. McVey told Al Arabiya English.

Future iterations of Red Sands exercises will build on successes and knowledge gained during this most recent drill by the US and Saudi Armed Forces as they continue to work together to solve “challenging military problems,” the United States Central Command (CENTCOM) said.

The exercise was “much more sophisticated” than the first round and, this time, was held at the King Saud Air Base in northeastern Saudi Arabia.

This allowed for more extensive and advanced weapons and technologies, according to Col. McVey.

Around 300 members participated in total, 150 from each army.

McVey said that interoperability between the US and Saudi militaries was a key goal of these drills.

CENTCOM chief Gen. Erik Kurilla watched the drills alongside Saudi Chief of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. Fayyadh Al-Ruwaili.

The main focus was to counter drones and other unmanned aerial systems, which are one of the biggest threats to regional countries as well as US forces in the Middle East.

Iran has developed one of the world’s most sophisticated and lethal drone programs.

But Col. McVey did not mention any particular country as being the biggest threat.

“The UAS threat is real, and the Red Sands Integrated Experimentation Center represents a significant step, not only in defeating UAS threats but in demonstrating a shared commitment to regional security by both Saudi and US forces,” said Gen. Kurilla, the top US military general for the Middle East. He added: “This also highlights the value CENTCOM component innovation task forces provide to solving shared security concerns.”

A wide range of aircraft and US technology was used during Red Sands 23.2. including Mobile-Low, Slow, Small Unmanned Aircraft System Integrated Defeat System (M-LIDS), an AH-64E Apache helicopter, the R400 Remote Weapon Station (RWS) with an XM914 30mm cannon, and the Light Marine Air Defense Integrated System (LMADIS).

The US hopes to replicate similar joint exercises with other regional armies.