In response to the September 14 attack on Saudi oil facilities, the Department of Defense (DOD) announced plans to deploy additional personnel and air and missile defense assets to the Middle East – including one Patriot battery, four Sentinel radars, and 200 support personnel. This deployment represents the latest American effort to deter Iranian aggression and highlights the growing and evolving air and missile threat to the United States and its partners.
At a September 20 press conference, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joe Dunford said that Riyadh had requested U.S. assistance following the September 14 attack. “The Iranian regime is waging a deliberate campaign to destabilize the Middle East and impose costs on the international economy,” Esper said.
The attack, Esper continued, carried Tehran’s fingerprints. “It is clear,” he said, “that the weapons used in the attack were Iranian-produced and not launched from Yemen.” Three weeks ago, despite disagreements regarding the U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear agreement, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany joined the U.S. in blaming Tehran for the attack.
The Patriot is one of the most effective and combat-experienced point defense systems for countering ballistic missiles, yet its radar system covers only a limited scope. The Patriot has been in the U.S. inventory for decades but is currently undergoing a major modernization that includes a variety of command, control, and radar improvements. As of August, the Army had upgraded nine of its 15 Patriot battalions.