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How Israel and Saudi Arabia Plan to Down Iranian Drones Together

Anshel Pfeffer

Haaretz, July 13, 2022

“This new generation of Israeli air defense systems will serve our allies, who are also exposed to severe threats from Iran.”

The regional defense alliance that Defense Minister Benny Gantz and other Israeli politicians have been talking up in recent weeks – which they have dubbed MEAD, or Middle East Air Defense – has actually been in existence for a while now. It had just gone under another label.

The United States Central Command, which has its forward base in Qatar, serves as a sort of defensive umbrella for the countries in its area of responsibility, in the Middle East and Central Asia, and since early 2021, Israel is part of CENTCOM’s region.

Over the past year, CENTCOM has been coordinating the response to air-defense threats for U.S. allies in the region. At this stage, the joint operation relies on the existing sensors and interception systems already in use by countries in the region, as well as those deployed by the United States. They include the X-band radar that the U.S. Army has deployed at Mount Keren in the Negev Desert and ship-borne Aegis combat systems in the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. Interception options include air-defense missiles and fighter jets.

Working through CENTCOM makes it possible to “fuse” the variety of electronic information gleaned by the various sensors, creating a real-time picture of the airborne threats in the region and intercepting them. The urgency in creating such a framework grew out of the successful Iranian drone and cruise missile attacks over the last couple of years on oil installations, cities and military bases in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. They were launched from different directions, including Iran, Yemen and Iraq.

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