The Secret U.S. Drone Base in Saudi Arabia

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					More on a possible CIA drone base in Saudi Arabia reported by Wired.

2013-0121.htm Saudi Arabian Border Airport (Drone Base?) Under Construction February 8,
2013

10 February 2013. Owen Boswarva tweets a link to news article about Umm Al Melh border
guard airport:

http://www.alriyadh.com/2010/11/10/article576128.html [English translation from Arabic]

UM ALMALH AIRPORT

Cost of more than 86 million ..

To approve the creation of airport or salt to guard the southern border of the Empty Quarter




Design proposal for the airport or salt to guard the southern border of the Empty Quarter.

Issued approval of the High Commissioner on an airport or salt to guard the southern border of
the Empty Quarter near [Asha] province at a total cost estimated at 86.318.104 million riyals and
this covers airports, border guards full limits of the Empty Quarter to serve the citizens living in
those remote areas.

This was stated by Director General of Border Guard, Maj. Gen. / Zmim bin Joiber whipper
noting that it comes within the framework of the keenness and rulers may Allah to provide all
that would serve the people of the nation and overcome difficulties and said that the issuance of
this approval Commissioner to an airport or salt in the south of the Empty Quarter near from
[Asha] province aims to provide support and transport, surveillance and medical evacuation in
addition to the service of the citizens living in those remote areas.

And between General Zmim whipper that because of the difficulty of terrain Empty Quarter
desert and what it represents challenges to the work of border guards, the State has guard God in
an earlier period represented by the Ministry of Interior established a number four airports to
border guards in the Empty Quarter, namely, (Batha - Shebeita - Ardh - Zabhloten) [see bases] so
as to facilitate work transport and logistical support and evacuation centers for border guards.

Major General Sawat: airport offers support and medical evacuation of citizens living in remote
areas

Whipper stressed that this project is one of the main pillars in the development of system and
border guards supported by the Second Deputy Prime Minister and the Deputy Minister of the
Interior and the direct supervision by HRH assistant interior minister for security affairs God
keeps them all.

On the other hand, Director of Border Guard Aviation Affairs Brigadier Pilot / Khalid bin
Abdullah Alersahan that the Department of Border Guard Aviation has prepared specifications
required the assistance of local specialized consultancy offices and external to ensure matching
international standards and safety requirements used in the establishment of international
airports.




Aerial photography of the airport. [The complex shown without the fabric hangars which would
be at top center.]

The Brigadier Alersahan that the airport, which was awarded the total amount of (86.318.104)
million includes a runway length of 3 km and a width of 60 meters capable of accommodating
various types of civilian and military aircraft of different sizes including the aircraft Boeing 747
in addition to the parking planes were designed to accommodate up to four planes of the same
size, the project also includes support services and communications system and advanced
navigational devices and approved by international aviation authorities to ensure aviation safety
and to the highest international standards and that would qualify the airport for use in various
weather conditions.

It is worth mentioning that the border guards occurred several months before the contract with
the CEO of Flight School at the University of North Dakota, United States of America to train 30
pilots of the employees of border guards within the strategy of the Ministry of Interior to develop
security capabilities and strengthen the infrastructure of the security services.
[Owen Boswarva notes that the University of North Dakota has a drone pilot training program.]




Saudi Arabian Airport (Drone Base?) Under Construction

10 February 2013. Owen Boswarva tweets a link to news article about Umm Al Melh border
guard airport:

http://www.alriyadh.com/2010/11/10/article576128.html [English translation from Arabic]

UM ALMALH AIRPORT

Cost of more than 86 million ..

To approve the creation of airport or salt to guard the southern border of the Empty Quarter




Design proposal for the airport or salt to guard the southern border of the Empty Quarter.

Issued approval of the High Commissioner on an airport or salt to guard the southern border of
the Empty Quarter near from [Asha] province at a total cost estimated at 86.318.104 million
riyals and this covers airports, border guards full limits of the Empty Quarter to serve the citizens
living in those remote areas.

This was stated by Director General of Border Guard, Maj. Gen. / Zmim bin Joiber whipper
noting that it comes within the framework of the keenness and rulers may Allah to provide all
that would serve the people of the nation and overcome difficulties and said that the issuance of
this approval Commissioner to an airport or salt in the south of the Empty Quarter near from
[Asha] province aims to provide support and transport, surveillance and medical evacuation in
addition to the service of the citizens living in those remote areas.

And between General Zmim whipper that because of the difficulty of terrain Empty Quarter
desert and what it represents challenges to the work of border guards, the State has guard God in
an earlier period represented by the Ministry of Interior established a number four airports to
border guards in the Empty Quarter, namely, (Batha - Shebeita - Ardh - Zabhloten) [see bases] so
as to facilitate work transport and logistical support and evacuation centers for border guards.

Major General Sawat: airport offers support and medical evacuation of citizens living in remote
areas

Whipper stressed that this project is one of the main pillars in the development of system and
border guards supported by the Second Deputy Prime Minister and the Deputy Minister of the
Interior and the direct supervision by HRH assistant interior minister for security affairs God
keeps them all.

On the other hand, Director of Border Guard Aviation Affairs Brigadier Pilot / Khalid bin
Abdullah Alersahan that the Department of Border Guard Aviation has prepared specifications
required the assistance of local specialized consultancy offices and external to ensure matching
international standards and safety requirements used in the establishment of international
airports.




Aerial photography of the airport. [The complex shown without the fabric hangars which would
be at top center.]

The Brigadier Alersahan that the airport, which was awarded the total amount of (86.318.104)
million includes a runway length of 3 km and a width of 60 meters capable of accommodating
various types of civilian and military aircraft of different sizes including the aircraft Boeing 747
in addition to the parking planes were designed to accommodate up to four planes of the same
size, the project also includes support services and communications system and advanced
navigational devices and approved by international aviation authorities to ensure aviation safety
and to the highest international standards and that would qualify the airport for use in various
weather conditions.

It is worth mentioning that the border guards occurred several months before the contract with
the CEO of Flight School at the University of North Dakota, United States of America to train 30
pilots of the employees of border guards within the strategy of the Ministry of Interior to develop
security capabilities and strengthen the infrastructure of the security services.

[Owen Boswarva notes that the University of North Dakota has a drone pilot training program.]

_____

9 February 2013. This base appears to be a Saudi Arabian border guard facility located at Umm
Al Melh. It may also serve as a CIA drone base but no evidence has been found for that use.
Owen Boswarva discovered the metadata of the Wired Bing image of the site, below, giving the
date of February 17, 2012, several months after the drone killing of Anwar al-Awlaki in
September 2011.

Entering the coordinates of the Bing image discovered by Wire, 19.102438,50.120902, in
Google Maps produces:
A Google search on Umm Al Melh produces several items about the facility contractor and staff
(not excluding the possibility the work was contracted through Blackwater/Xe/Academia -- the
initial date of the contract is close to the reports of when Blackwater was engaged to build a
drone base):

http://www.tadawul.com.sa/wps/portal/!ut/p/c0/04_SB8K8xLLM9MSSzPy8xBz9CP0os3g_A-
ewIE8TIwN_
D38LA09vV7NQP8cQQ_dgE_3g1Dz9gmxHRQDvjvPB/?x=1&ANNOUNCEMENT_NO=226
94

Abdullah A. M. Al-Khodari Sons Company announces the signing of a contract with the
Ministry of Interior (Border Guard)
2011-09-20 (1432-10-22 ) 08:26:54

With reference to the earlier announcement of 06/09/1432H corresponding to 06/08/2011G,
Abdullah A. M. Al-Khodari Sons Company announces the completion of the signing of a
contract with the Ministry of Interior (Border Guard) for the construction of the second phase of
Border Guard Airport in Umm Almelh (South of the Kingdom Empty Quarter) within a period of
720 days from the date of contract signing on 23/08/2011. The contract is valued at SAR
120,665,267 as per the contract copy which was received by the company on 19/09/2011. The
financial impact of this project is expected to be in the fourth quarter of the current financial
year. [This suggests the airport is to be completed by August 2013.]
8 February 2013



Wired's discovery of a drone base in Saudi Arabia is exemplary spotting.

No date for the facility has been provided, although there are reports construction was authorized
in 2010 and the construction contract given to Blackwater/Xe/Academia.
Add 9 February 2013:

Owen Boswarva discovered the metadata of the Wired Bing image of the site, below, giving the date of
February 17, 2012, several months after the drone killing of Anwar al-Awlaki in September 2011.

Close examination of the base shows that it is under construction and far from ready for drone
flights.

If it was used to launch the drone that killed Anwar al-Awlaki in September 2011 that means the
photos show it well before that time.

It might be estimated that the stage of construction shown could be about 6-8 months after start,
and about that amount of time to completion.




The main runway is being cast in concrete flags, square in shape, probably atop compacted
gravel, and is far from complete. Checkboard casting patterns are conventional: Cast the first flag
in steel formwork, after the concrete sets remove the formwork, then cast concrete flags in the
the voids created. Leave gaps for expansion joint segments.
A concrete mixing plant is some distance away.
A secondary dirt runway has piles of material on it, thus not usable.
In front of the clamshell structures which will house the drones there is amply packed
construction trailers, sheds and materials where drones will be readied for flight. There appears
to be security fencing and/or bollards around this area (the only on the whole site) which may
indicate need for protection of sensitive apparatus and personnel. Close-by construction trailers
here are separated from those for the rest of the facility, some located within the security fencing,
others not.
Ribs of a fabric structure lie flat before erection.
Foundation excavated for a future structure adjoining the apron.
The construction workers camp, with little or no security surrounding it. Two sewage pits.
Circular driving track is peculiar, perhaps to train truck drivers for the many open-top tractor-
trailers shown. Many trucks were needed to haul in materials over 240 miles from the nearest
main Saudi town.
Foundation excavations for flight lines or support structures.
http://cryptome.org/2013-info/02/drone-base-const/drone-base-const.htm



                               Companies Announcements

    ABDULLAH A. M. AL-KHODARI SONS COMPANY ANNOUNCES THE SIGNING OF A CONTRACT WITH THE
                             MINISTRY OF INTERIOR (BORDER GUARD)


                                                                              Related Links



2011-09-20 (1432-10-22 ) 08:26:54                                    Detailed Quote



                                                                     Company Profile
  With reference to the earlier announcement of 06/09/1432H corresponding to 06/08/2011G, Abdullah A. M. Al-Khodari
  Sons Company announces the completion of the signing of a contract with the Ministry of Interior (Border Guard) for the
  construction of the second phase of Border Guard Airport in Umm Almelh (South of the Kingdom Empty Quarter) within a
  period of 720 days from the date of contract signing on 23/08/2011. The contract is valued at SAR 120,665,267 as per the
  contract copy which was received by the company on 19/09/2011. The financial impact of this project is expected to be in
  the fourth quarter of the current financial year.

Archive


http://www.tadawul.com.sa/wps/portal/!ut/p/c0/04_SB8K8xLLM9MSSzPy8xBz9CP0os3g_A-
ewIE8TIwN_D38LA09vV7NQP8cQQ_dgE_3g1Dz9gmxHRQDvjvPB/?x=1&ANNOUNCEMENT_NO=22694
Danger Room What's Next in National Security


         Drones
         Spies, Secrecy and Surveillance



Is This the Secret U.S. Drone Base in
Saudi Arabia?
         By Noah Shachtman
         02.07.13
         8:12 PM




<img alt="001" src="http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/wp-content/gallery/saudi-arabia-secret-drone-base/001.jpg" />
                   <img alt="001" src="http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/wp-content/gallery/saudi-arabia-secret-drone-
           base/thumbs/thumbs_001.jpg" width="50" height="50" />




                   <img alt="003" src="http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/wp-content/gallery/saudi-arabia-secret-drone-
           base/thumbs/thumbs_003.jpg" width="50" height="50" />




                   <img alt="004" src="http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/wp-content/gallery/saudi-arabia-secret-drone-
           base/thumbs/thumbs_004.jpg" width="50" height="50" />




                   <img alt="005" src="http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/wp-content/gallery/saudi-arabia-secret-drone-
           base/thumbs/thumbs_005.jpg" width="50" height="50" />




                   <img alt="006" src="http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/wp-content/gallery/saudi-arabia-secret-drone-
           base/thumbs/thumbs_006.jpg" width="50" height="50" />




                   <img alt="009" src="http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/wp-content/gallery/saudi-arabia-secret-drone-
           base/thumbs/thumbs_009.jpg" width="50" height="50" />




                   <img alt="008" src="http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/wp-content/gallery/saudi-arabia-secret-drone-
           base/thumbs/thumbs_008.jpg" width="50" height="50" />




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These satellite images show a remote airstrip deep in the desert of Saudi Arabia. It may or may not be the secret U.S. drone base revealed by
reporters earlier this week. But the base’s hangars bear a remarkable resemblance to similar structures found on other American drone
outposts. And its remote location — dozens of miles from the nearest highway, and farther still to the nearest town – suggests that this may
be more than the average civilian airstrip.

According to accounts from the Washington Post and The New York Times, the U.S. built its secret Saudi base approximately two years ago.
Its first lethal mission was in September of 2011: a strike on Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born propagandist for al-Qaida’s affiliate in
Yemen, which borders Saudi Arabia. Since then, the U.S. has launched dozens of drone attacks on Yemeni targets. News organizations
eventually found out about the base. But they agreed to keep it out of their pages — part of an informal arrangement with the Obama
administration, which claimed that the disclosure of the base’s location, even in a general way, might jeopardize national security. On
Tuesday, that loose embargo was broken.
                                                           <img class="size-medium wp-image-102945" title="saudi-arabia-map"
src="http://www.wired.com/images_blogs/dangerroom/2013/02/saudi-arabia-map-300x186.jpg" alt="" width="300" height="186" />


The location of the airfield. Click to enlarge. Image: via Bing Maps

The image of the airfield, available in Bing Maps, would be almost impossible to discover randomly. At moderate resolutions, satellite images
of the area show nothing but sand dunes. Only on close inspection does the base reveal itself. In Google’s catalog of satellite pictures, the base
doesn’t appear at all.

The images show a trio of “clamshell”-style hangars, surrounded by fencing. Each is more than 150 feet long and approximately 75 feet wide;
that’s sufficient to hold U.S. Predator and Reaper drones. The hangars are slightly larger, though similar in shape, to ones housing unmanned
planes at Kandahar Air Field in Afghanistan. Shamsi Air Field in Pakistan, which once held U.S. drones, boasts a group of three hangars not
unlike the ones of the Saudi base. No remotely piloted aircraft are visible in the images. But a pair of former American intelligence officers tell
Danger Room that they are reasonably sure that this is the base revealed by the media earlier this week.

“I believe it’s the facility that the U.S. uses to fly drones into Yemen,” one officer says. “It’s out in eastern Saudi Arabia, near Yemen and
where the bad guys are supposed to hang out. It has those clamshell hangars, which we’ve seen before associated with U.S. drones.”

The former officer was also impressed by the base’s remote location.”It’s way, way out in the Rub al Khali, otherwise known as Hell, and must
have been built, at least initially, with stuff flown into Sharorah and then trucked more than 400 kilometers up the existing highway and
newly-built road,” the ex-officer adds in an e-mail. “It’s a really major logistics feat. The way it fits inconspicuously into the terrain is also
admirable.”


Three airstrips are visible in the pictures; two are big enough to land drones or conventional light aircraft. A third runway, under
construction, is substantially longer and wider. In other words: The facility is growing, and it is expanding to fly much larger planes.

The growth has been rapid. When the commercial imaging company Digital Globe flew one of its satellites over the region on Nov. 17, 2010,
there was no base present. By the time the satellite made a pass on March 22, 2012, the airfield was there. This construction roughly matches
the timeline for the Saudi base mentioned in the Post and in the Times.

“It’s obviously a military base,” says a second intelligence analyst, who reviewed the images and asked to remain anonymous because of the
sensitivity of the subject. “It’s clearly an operating air base in the middle of nowhere, but near the Yemeni border. You tell me what it is.”
<img class="size-large wp-image-102836" title="secret-drone-base"
src="http://www.wired.com/images_blogs/dangerroom/2013/02/secret-drone-base-660x396.jpg" alt="" width="660" height="396" />


Click image to enlarge. Image: via Bing Maps

If this picture does prove to be of a secret U.S. drone base, it wouldn’t be the first clandestine American airfield revealed by public satellite
imagery. In 2009, for instance, Sen. Diane Feinstein accidentally revealed that the U.S. was flying its robotic aircraft from Pakistani soil. The
News of Pakistan quickly dug through Google Earth’s archives to find Predator drones sitting on a runway not far from the Jacobabad Air
Base in Pakistan – one of five airfields in the country used for unmanned attacks. The pictures proved that the Pakistani officials were actively
participating in the American drone campaign, despite their public condemnation of the strikes. Until then, such participation had only been
suspected. While the drone attacks continued, the U.S. was forced to withdraw from some of the bases.

So far, reaction to the Saudi base has been relatively muted. American forces officially withdrew from Saudi Arabia years ago, in part because
the presence of foreign troops in the Muslim holy land so inflamed militants. It’s unclear how the drone base changes this calculation, if at all.


The drone base’s exposure is part of a series of revelations about the American target killing campaign that have accompanied John
Brennan’s nomination to be the director of the CIA. Brennan currently oversees targeted killing operations from his perch as White House
counterterrorism adviser, and would be responsible for executing many of the remotely piloted missions as CIA chief.

In addition to the drone base disclosure, an unclassified Justice Department white paper summing up the Obama administration’s criteria for
eliminating U.S. citizens was leaked this week to NBC News; the document argues that a judgment from an “informed, high-level” official can
mark an American or robotic death – even without “clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the
immediate future.” (.pdf) The White House has since promised to give select Congressmen the classified and detailed legal rationales behind
the white paper. But Sen. Ron Wyden told Brennan at his Senate confirmation hearing that the Justice Department is not yet complying with
President Obama’s promise to disclose those legal memoranda. Feinstein said she was seeking eight such memos in total.


In their hours of questioning Brennan, however, the Senators didn’t once ask the CIA nominee about the secret Saudi drone base. Perhaps
that’s because they didn’t have a visual aid.


http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2013/02/secret-drone-base-2/

				
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