The US military is working on developing a new testing facility in Saudi Arabia, NBC News reported Wednesday, citing three Pentagon officials familiar with the plans.
The exact location of the new military facility hasn’t been decided on, but it will be called the Red Sands Integrated Experimentation Center, a similar name to the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.
The facility will develop and test integrated air defense systems as the US is looking to foster Israeli-Arab military cooperation in that area. “With the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as the center of gravity for many future regional security endeavors, this is an opportunity,” a Pentagon official told NBC.
Pentagon officials said that there is not yet a firm deadline on when Red Sands can begin operations, and it likely won’t happen before the end of this year. It’s not clear how much the facility will cost. The US is exploring a plan where it will pay 20% of the costs and provide 20% of the personnel while allies make up the rest.
The plan comes as Israel is looking to build a US-backed anti-Iran alliance in the region with Washington’s Arab allies. Israel has stepped up military cooperation with the UAE and Bahrain since signing normalization deals with the two Gulf states at the end of 2020.
The US has fewer resources dedicated to the Middle East now that it is focusing on confronting Russia and China. While the US still has a military presence in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen, the number of troops assigned to US Central Command (CENTCOM), which oversees operations in the region, dropped from more than 80,000 in 2020 to about 35,000 now.
As the US is focusing resources elsewhere, a NATO-style alliance consisting of Israel and Washington’s Arab allies could help the US maintain control and influence in the region.