King Abdul-Aziz Air Base (RSAF)

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King Abdul-Aziz Air Base
Saudi dhahran airport.jpg
IATA: DHAICAO: OEDR
Summary
Airport type Military
Operator Ministry of Defence and Aviation
Location Dhahran
Elevation AMSL 84 ft / 26 m
Coordinates 26°15′55″N 50°09′07″E / 26.26528°N 50.15194°E / 26.26528; 50.15194Coordinates: 26°15′55″N 50°09′07″E / 26.26528°N 50.15194°E / 26.26528; 50.15194
Runways
Direction Length Surface
ft m
16R/34L 12,008 3,660 Asphalt
16L/34R 11,811 3,600 Asphalt

King Abdul-Aziz Air Base, formerly Dhahran International Airport and Dhaharan Airfield is an airfield operated by the United States Air Force (USAF) from 1945 until 1962.[1] After use by the USAF, Dhahran Airfield became Dhahran International Airport, as well as the co-located King Abdul-Aziz Air Base of the Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF). The military relationship that exists today between the United States and Saudi Arabia was highly influenced by the origin and development of this airfield.

Background[edit]

During World War II, the Persian Gulf and Arabian Peninsula were important staging and shipping routes for the U.S. to provide both lend-lease assistance to Russia, as well as supply the allied forces fighting the Imperial Japanese forces in Asia.

Owing to Saudi Arabia’s importance, primarily its location, in 1943 the US extended lend-lease status to Saudi Arabia, one of only three Arab countries to receive this aid. In 1944, the U.S. War Department (renamed in 1949 the United States Department of Defense) proposed building an airbase in or near Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.

Broader military relationship[edit]

The agreed-upon military survey team, under the leadership of Colonel O’Keefe, arrived in Saudi Arabia in 1949, and the resultant 50-page “O’Keefe Report”, submitted to the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff in January 1950, provided the "first comprehensive U.S. plan for building a modern Saudi armed forces.”

In 1951 the year-to-year leasing agreement was retired in favor of what eventually became known as the Mutual Defense Assistance Agreement, one component of which was the deployment of U.S. military personnel to the Kingdom to provide military training to Saudi Arabia. These personnel were the forerunners of what became the United States Military Training Mission (USMTM). USMTM was established on June 27, 1953 and is still a fundamental component of the US/Saudi military relationship.

RSAF[edit]

King Abdul-Aziz Air Base has been a major RSAF airbase since the USAF left in 1962, providing air defence, tactical and strategic support for the Eastern Province and nearby regions, as well as providing aviation related technical training to RSAF personnel.

Recent history and commercialization[edit]

Through the 1950s, the Dhahran airfield began to emerge as a commercial transportation hub, as the nearby Dammam oil fields increased the overall economic viability of the area. Additionally, Trans World Airlines began using Dhahran as a hub for increasing transport to and from Asia and Europe.

The Dhahran airfield, and the emerging support facilities, became the Dhahran International Airport in 1961, shortly before the United States relinquished control in 1962.

Dhahran served a significant role in the 1994 evacuation of U.S. citizens and personnel from Yemen, when that country slid into civil war. Also, in 1996 after the bombing of the Khobar Towers, in Operation Desert Focus, in which over 6,000 U.S. citizens and personnel were relocated within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The Dhahran airfield continued to serve as the Eastern Provinces commercial air hub until the completion, in 1999, of the King Fahd International Airport near Dammam.


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