November 28, 2022

  • Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have invested heavily in new military equipment for Iran.
  • They continued to mobilize even as President Joe Biden tried to reassure them of US support.

Iran’s military moves in recent weeks have captured the world’s attention, sparking anxiety among adversaries in the United States and throughout the Middle East.

On September 1, the Iranian Navy briefly seized two US Navy surface ships in the Red Sea, succeeding in its second attempt to seize a US drone within a week.

On September 4, the commander of the Iranian Air Force, Brigadier General. Brigadier General Hamid Wahidi He said The country had hoped to acquire Russian Su-35 fighter jets in what would be the largest fighter purchase for Tehran since 1990.

The next day, the Navy of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps show off It is a new Catamaran-class “combat patrol vessel” equipped with vertical launch missiles – a first for any Iranian naval vessel.

These measures come amid a prolonged military build-up by Iran’s neighbors, who are seeking to counter Tehran’s asymmetric capabilities by improving their air and naval forces. Its strengthening continued despite President Joe Biden’s efforts to assert US support and improve relations in the face of increasing geopolitical competition.

dominant air force

United Arab Emirates F-16 KC-10 Tanker

An Emirati F-16 prepares to contact a US Air Force KC-10 carrier in August 2019.

US Air Force / Sgt. Chris Drazzowski

The vast oil wealth of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates has allowed them to be the two largest defense spenders in the Middle East and North Africa, and their relationships with the United States and Europe give them access to the best combat aircraft on the market.

The essence of the Royal Saudi Air Force Energy There are 232 F-15 Eagles, at least 84 of them F-15SA variants Specially designed for Saudi Arabia. The Air Force also operates RSAF 71 Eurofighter Typhoon fighter and 66 Panavia Tornado attack aircraft.

Saudi Arabia is modernizing its F-15 aircraft, and in November, the US State Department approved the sale of 280 AIM-120C air-to-air missiles for $650 million to Riyadh.

Royal Saudi Air Force F-15

A Royal Saudi Air Force F-15 aircraft at King Faisal Air Base in Saudi Arabia in February 2021.

US Air Force / Sgt. Kathryn Walters

Saudi aircraft continue to play a major role in Riyadh’s campaign in Yemen. Their operations prevented Houthi forces from taking control important area And the prevented Drones and Houthi missiles hit Saudi Arabia, but Saudi air strikes, are often carried out US supportcomplete to killing civilians.

The UAE’s air fleet is smaller but also powerful, consisting of 78 F-16s and 49 Mirage 2000s Used in both combat operations and ground attack.

The United Arab Emirates said over the past year you will buy 80 Dassault Ravalis made in France And the 12 trays Hongdu L-15 Jet trainer, with an option for 36 more jets. UAE too It is said in conversations With the Turkish company Baykar for 120 Bayraktar TB2 Drones.

Modern fleets

Royal Saudi Naval Force Corvette HMS Badr

The Royal Saudi Navy Corvette HMS Badr in the Persian Gulf in December 2020.

US Navy / MCS3 Louis Thompson Staats IV

The main combat ships of the Saudi Navy are three Riyadh Class frigates, four Medina frigates, four Badr-class cruisersand nine Siddiq-class patrol boats. The UAE combat fleet consists of smaller ships: six Baynunah Class and one Abu Dhabi Class cruisers and 36 patrol ships.

Both navies plan to expand and modernize.

In 2017, Riyadh signed a contract with Lockheed Martin for four Multi-mission surface fighter Warships, a type of Liberty-class coastal combat ship of the US Navy. The Saudis are too Receive Two of the Five are built in Spanish Jubail Class Corvettes they ordered in 2018. The last three are expected to be delivered by 2024. The kingdom also ordered 39 corvettes HSI32 interception Ships from the French shipbuilder CMN Group.

Meanwhile, the United Arab Emirates ordered Gowind 2500-class corvettes from France’s Marine group in 2019. It was the first Corvette Launched In December and the second in May.

In addition to securing their own waters, the Saudi and Emirati navies have sent ships to support them siege To whom.

Evolving threats, priorities, and procurement

United Arab Emirates Baynunah-Class Corvette

The UAE’s first Baynunah Corvette set sail for the first time in Cherbourg, France, in June 2009.

Jean Paul Barbier/AFP via Getty Images

Despite showing off its new warships and announcing plans to buy more combat aircraft, Tehran has readjusted its defense structure in recent years.

β€œTen years ago, you could see that the Iranians were still thinking in a fairly traditional way of doing things,” said Michael Knights, an expert on the military and security affairs of the Persian Gulf states at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Due to sanctions and a limited industrial base, Iran has mostly been unable to build and equip advanced military equipment. It has shifted from trying to match the conventional capabilities of its opponents to focusing on things like developing missiles and drones.

“They jumped on a bunch of things they weren’t very good at and focused on things they’re reasonably good at now,” Knights told Insider.

Iran missile arsenal She is the largest in the Middle East and just as capable, like her UAV fleet.

Damage to al-Assad base in Iraq after the Iranian missile strike in January 2020

American soldiers and journalists inspect the damage caused to Al-Assad base in Iraq after it was hit by Iranian missiles.

Associated Press/Qasim Abdel-Zahra

Hundreds of missile and drone attacks using Iranian-made equipment have been launched against Saudi Arabia and the UAE from Yemen and Iran since 2015. In January 2020, Iran launched more than a dozen ballistic missiles at US military bases in Iraq after the US assassination of Iran. Major General Qassem Soleimani.

Iran was supplying drones to Moscow Where the Russian army struggles in Ukraine. In mid-September, Ukraine said it had destroyed for the first time an Iranian drone used by Russian forces.

Iran also has Upgraded air defenses which are likely to effectively defend their native lands.

But the advanced weaponry that Iran and its neighbors are now sending, along with the tight restrictions on the Gulf region, means that any conflict will take a heavy toll on both sides.

“The Gulf states and the Iranians are likely to be able to do a lot of damage to each other very early in the war. Both sides will lose their navies very quickly,” Knights said.

As a result, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are placing more emphasis on developing air and missile defense systems. Both too Investing in unmanned systems.

The two countries are integrating and integrating their aircraft networks and systems with each other, which is what the United States has supportedIt has participated in or hosted several military exercises using drones, including this year’s US-led international naval exercise. Biggest exercise of the unmanned systems in the world.

Unmanned warships in Bahrain

US and Bahraini officials front unmanned warships at the Bahrain Naval Support Activity in Manama in January.

US Navy/MCS1 Mark Thomas Mahmood

It was IMX 2022 too First time Israel and Saudi Arabia, which do not have diplomatic relations, officially participated in an exercise together.

The Saudis and Emiratis have turned to their burgeoning defense industries to build those weapons, but the Biden administration β€” which froze arms sales to Saudi Arabia upon taking office over human rights concerns related to the war in Yemen β€” now appears open to replenishing Saudi resources. and its Emirati arsenals as part of its efforts to improve relations.

A few weeks after his visit to the Middle East in July 2021, Biden approved a $5 billion arms sale, including up to 300 Patriot missile interceptors, to Saudi Arabia and two high-altitude area defense systems with 96 interceptors to the United Arab Emirates.

Knights said Iran is “in a game of mutual destruction” with the Gulf Cooperation Council, which includes Saudi Arabia and the UAE, “when it comes to losing critical infrastructure.”

“But if trends in counter-missiles and drones continue to move in the direction they are now moving, the GCC countries may be more willing to defend themselves from the Iranians, and this is an interesting shift,” he added.

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