In an updated security alert on Oct 28, the US State Department said it was “no longer tracking reports of missiles/drones headed toward Riyadh.” This followed a previous alert earlier that day warning of a potential attack, launched by Houthi rebels across the border in Yemen.

There have been several Houthi drone and rocket attacks this year, the most recent coming earlier this week targeting OEAH/Abha and OEGN/Jizan airports along the Yemeni-Saudi border. These continue to be a persistent threat to ops to Saudi airports, and for overflights of the OEJD/Jeddah FIR. The most significant risk is in the south of the country along the border with Yemen, but OERK/Riyadh and OEJN/Jeddah airports are also on the radar for the Houthis.

Riyadh was last targeted in June 2020 – the Saudi-led coalition claimed they intercepted of 8 Houthi UAVs and 3 ballistic missiles. However, two loud explosions were heard in Riyadh.

Much of the information comes from state media and cannot always be independently verified. Back in 2017, a New York Times investigation suggested that at least one of the most high-profile attacks from that year may not have been “shot-down” or intercepted by Saudi defense systems at all.

 

Saudi Arabia Overflight Risk

Long standing airspace warnings remain in place for Saudi Arabia. Germany warns of a risk to overflying or landing anywhere in Saudi Arabia, but particularly along the border with Yemen in the southwest part of the OEJD/Jeddah FIR. France has issued similar advice, with the specific warning not to operate to OEAB/Abha, OEGN/Jazan, OENG/Nejran, OESH/Sharurah, OEWD/Wadi Al Dawasir and OEBH/Bisha airports. For more info, check SafeAirspace.net

Watch out for SCATANA

If you’re overflying the OEJD/Jeddah FIR and hear ‘SCATANA RULES ARE NOW ACTIVE’ (or something to that effect) you need to be aware that these apply to you! You will likely be given a change of route directly out of the airspace, or will be directed to land at the nearest suitable aerodrome. The purpose is to clear the affected airspace of all civilian aircraft at which point they close down all nav aids and airports until the threat has been dealt with.

SCATANA procedures are published in GEN 1.6 of Saudi Arabia’s AIP. If you don’t have a login, you can see the relevant section here.

Yemen Overflights

Not a good idea. Several countries have prohibited flights here due to the ongoing conflict on the ground. The oceanic portion of the OYSC/Sanaa FIR is excluded from most warnings, by nature of being offshore. The guidance issued by the US FAA currently looks like this:

Essentially, US operators are banned from flying north of a line KAPET-NODMA-ORBAT-PAKER-PARIM-RIBOK. The US FAA specifically mentions UT702 and M999 as being ok to use.


With the overall increase in drone and missile activity, there is a clear risk to operations in Saudi airspace, even outside the SCATANA area. The conflict between Saudi Arabia and Yemen remains complex and volatile. Safeairspace.net continues to provide up-to-date information for both Saudi and Yemen airspace.

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David Mumford

David Mumford

Opsgroup team member. International flight ops news hound.

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