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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

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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.

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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.]

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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:

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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=22694

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.]

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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.

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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.

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A concrete mixing plant is some distance away.

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A secondary dirt runway has piles of material on it, thus not usable.

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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.

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Ribs of a fabric structure lie flat before erection.

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Foundation excavated for a future structure adjoining the apron.

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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.

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Foundation excavations for flight lines or support structures.

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