U.S. and Saudi military forces and their elaborate air-defense systems failed to detect the launch of airstrikes aimed at Saudi Arabian oil facilities, allowing dozens of drones and missiles to hit their targets, U.S. officials said.
The U.S. deployed a Patriot missile system to Prince Sultan Air Base this year, but that system is intended to defend the base, where more than 500 U.S. personnel are deployed, along with the area immediately around it. That system wasn’t within a range to defend against the Saturday attack, U.S. officials said.
The U.S. contends that Iran has been lashing out against the U.S. since May, after the Trump administration reimposed crippling sanctions that have tipped its economy into recession.
Saudi Arabia has used American Patriot systems to shoot down Houthi weapons fired from Yemen at the nation’s capital, Riyadh. The Houthi threat has forced Saudi Arabia to focus missile-defense systems on its southern border with Yemen, leaving other areas of the country without the same level of protection. Saudi Arabia has also struggled to combat the threat posed by increasingly effective Houthi drone attacks.