July 24 (UPI) -- Several hundred U.S. Air Force personnel are expanding an operating base in Saudi Arabia, which will host fighter planes and Patriot missiles, officials said.
About 500 personnel are expected to use the annex, which includes a medical facility, as a base of operations. The increase in U.S. troop presence in the Middle East was announced in June but its location was made public last week.
"In coordination with and at the invitation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Secretary of Defense has authorized the movement of U.S. personnel and resources to deploy to Saudi Arabia," Air Forces Central Command said Friday in a statement.
King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia made a similar announcement on Saturday, although the deployment of U.S. troops to the country has never been popular with Saudi citizens. The action comes as Saudi allies, notably the United Arab Emirates, are announcing their departure from the Saudi side in the Yemeni civil war.
Aircraft are expected to arrive at the base in August, and some Patriot long-range defense missiles are already at the base near Riyadh. B-52 bombers and a maritime strike force, led by the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, have been deployed to the area as well.
Central Command released a video showing the building of the base annex by the Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineer units, known as Red Horse.
A July 19 statement said that airmen of 25 Air Force Specialty Codes are involved in the construction and that introduction of new forces and equipment "provides an additional deterrent, and ensures our ability to defend our forces and interests in the region from emergent, credible threats."
It added that the new facilities will improve "operational depth and logistical networks."
Prince Sultan Air Base was last used by U.S. forces in 2003, when troops and equipment were withdrawn at the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom.