Saudi Arabia could have built its first ballistic missile factory, after new satellite images of what appears of a rocket building plant emerged, Daily Mail reported.
The pictures show what could be a rocket engine testing area and weapons building sites for solid fuel, experts say.
If operational, the suspected factory at a missile base in al-Watah, 125 miles southwest of the capital Riyadh, would allow Saudi Arabia to manufacture its own ballistic missiles. It is feared the development could be a sign of a growing arms race with Saudi’s regional rival, Iran.
According to the Washington Post , the photos were discovered by Jeffrey Lewis, a nuclear weapons expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey and founder of the Arms Control Wonk blog, and his team.
The photos raise “the possibility that Saudi Arabia is going to build longer-range missiles and seek nuclear weapons,” according to The Post. Lewis said that “we may be underestimating their desire and their capabilities.”
The findings were further confirmed by Michael Elleman of the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies and Joseph Bermudez of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Media reports of a Saudi ballistic missile base in Al-Watah first surfaced in the form of an article published in July 2013 by IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly. The site revealed satellite imagery that appeared to show surface-to-surface missile sites being constructed to accommodate the deployment of Chinese Dongfeng DF-3A intermediate-range ballistic missiles, purchased in the 1980s during the war Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein imposed on Iran.