Is this another secret drone base on the Arabian Peninsula?
View Larger MapDriving Directions Well done to Danger Room for finding the needle in the haystack. On Thursday, the Wired.com blog posted this article showing an insanely remote military airstrip being built in the Saudi Arabian desert on the border with Yemen. Looking at the satellite imagery, the base is almost certainly the secret drone base ...
Well done to Danger Room for finding the needle in the haystack. On Thursday, the Wired.com blog posted this article showing an insanely remote military airstrip being built in the Saudi Arabian desert on the border with Yemen.
Looking at the satellite imagery, the base is almost certainly the secret drone base the United States is using to conduct UAV strikes in Yemen; it’s got those beige “clamshell” tent-hangars that are a ubiquitous feature at expeditionary drone bases around the world. It’s also smack dab in the middle of nothing. I mean nothing (that’s why they call it Rub al-Khali — the Empty Quarter). The crew at Wired remembered to look in Bing maps instead of Google maps. (We should have thought of this. After all, it was Bing maps, not Google, that had photos of the North Carolina mockup of Osama bin Laden’s compound that the Navy SEALs used to rehearse for the May 2011 raid to kill the al Qaeda leader.)
Guess, what? That Saudi facility is not alone. Last night, we found another possible drone base in the Yemeni desert relatively close to the Saudi site. The Yemeni airstrip (shown above) looks relatively new and is of a very similar layout to the Saudi base that’s being built. One thing that’s missing, however, is those clamshell tents. In fact, the airstrip and the substantial military-looking compound a few miles to the northeast that’s connected to the runway via a dirt road look almost abandoned.
Here’s one more nugget we found. Below is a screenshot from Wikimapia showing the site of the Saudi base before it was built. Notice how it’s just a few tents and a twin engine turboprop plane tucked amid the dunes of one of the most remote and forbidding locations on Earth. Pretty impressive. These finds have to make you wonder where else there are hidden airfields like this literally sprouting out of the wilderness.
John Reed is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy. He comes to FP after editing Military.com’s publication Defense Tech and working as the associate editor of DoDBuzz. Between 2007 and 2010, he covered major trends in military aviation and the defense industry around the world for Defense News and Inside the Air Force. Before moving to Washington in August 2007, Reed worked in corporate sales and business development for a Swedish IT firm, The Meltwater Group in Mountain View CA, and Philadelphia, PA. Prior to that, he worked as a reporter at the Tracy Press and the Scotts Valley Press-Banner newspapers in California. His first story as a professional reporter involved chasing escaped emus around California’s central valley with Mexican cowboys armed with lassos and local police armed with shotguns. Luckily for the giant birds, the cowboys caught them first and the emus were ok. A New England native, Reed graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a dual degree in international affairs and history.
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