USAF Expanding Operating Base in Saudi Arabia

A USAF C-17 touches down at Prince Sultan AB, Saudi Arabia, carrying supplies to airmen standing up a new US operating location at the base. Air Forces Central Command photo via Twitter.

The Air Force is setting up a small expeditionary annex to Prince Sultan AB in Saudi Arabia to host fighter aircraft and US Army Patriot missiles.

Air Forces Central Command on July 22 released a video highlighting construction at the base, being led by Air Force RED HORSE and contingency response airmen. US Central Command in a July 19 statement said introducing new forces in the area “provides an additional deterrent, and ensures our ability to defend our forces and interests in the region from emergent, credible threats.” The new facilities and forces will improve “operational depth and logistical networks.”

The service said airmen from 25 different Air Force Specialty Codes are participating in the construction.

The increased USAF presence comes amid rising tensions with Iran in the Persian Gulf, which also prompted the deployment of B-52s and the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier and strike group to the region.

“We’re here to avoid a war, and that’s been the focus of every service member on the ground,” said Col. David Novy, the commander of the 1st Expeditionary Civil Engineer Group, in the video.

The footage shows C-17s, a C-5, and a C-130 unloading cargo at the desert base, with airmen building new infrastructure. US Army Patriots are deployed to enhance “security for the skies,” CENTCOM said. US service members and Saudi personnel are working together at the facility.

The Air Force has in the last two years adopted a more expeditionary posture in responding to potential flashpoints. The pattern of deploying a small group of varied personnel to build up a small operating air base—rather than relying on established major overseas operating locations—is being repeated across the service. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein has championed this effort, saying in his September 2018 speech at AFA’s Air, Space, and Cyber Conference that USAF needs to go back to its “expeditionary roots” and be able to fight from austere airfields. In the next few months, he is expected to announce a sweeping new construct on how USAF presents forces to theater commanders.