The U.K. Ministry of Defense has reportedly deployed troops and drone-detection radars at Saudi Arabia to protect its oil fields.
“Following the attacks on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s oil production facilities on 14 September 2019, we have worked with the Saudi Ministry of Defense and wider international partners to consider how to strengthen the defense of its critical economic infrastructure from aerial threats,” an MoD spokesperson was quoted as saying by The Independent on Saturday.
Interestingly, the move comes just months after Britain lifted a yearlong ban on the export of military equipment to Riyadh, imposed for its involvement in Yemen Civil War.
Last year, on September 14, Yemeni Houthis attacked state-owned Aramco oil processing facilities at Abqaiq and Khurais in eastern Saudi Arabia. The attack temporarily reduced 5% of global oil supply and sent its prices spiralling upwards. Just a week ago, Houthis claimed they fired a missile at distribution center property of Aramco located in Jeddah.
Britain has not informed the parliament or the public. The only mention of the British operation in Saudi Arabia was buried within the MoD’s Annual Report and Accounts 2019-20: “The deployment of Giraffe radars to Riyadh in February 2020 will help Saudi Arabia better track and identify objects in its airspace.”
Gunners from the 16th Regiment Royal Artillery were sent to the Gulf country to man Giraffe radars that can track aircraft and missiles up to 120km away. Armed with the Rapier missile defense system and the more powerful Sky Sabre system, 16th Regiment team plays a critical role in protecting key targets from air attack, having a permanent presence on the Falkland Islands.
Even France is said to have deployed its radars in Saudi’s eastern coast in February. What’s more interesting is that the U.S. pulled out a pair of Patriot batteries fortifying the oil-rich facilities in May.
Defense Minister James Heappey confirmed in separate written correspondence that U.K. defense personnel have accompanied the deployment of Giraffe radars to Riyadh, the report said. He added that the “ongoing” deployment "is purely defensive in nature and helps Saudi Arabia with the very real threats it faces” and had so far cost U.K. taxpayers £840,360.