Saudi-Yemen Airspace Update

By David Mumford

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Houthi drone and missile attacks on targets in Saudi Arabia are increasing. 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 have also been targeted several times over the past year.

OEJN/Jeddah Airport closed temporarily on March 7 following multiple attempted drone attacks. Saudi media reported dozens of drones were intercepted in their airspace, and the US Embassy also issued a statementOERK/Riyadh Airport was targeted in June 2020 and again in October.

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 Airspace Risk

Long-standing airspace warnings are in place for Saudi Arabia, although the US has not issued any so far. Germany and Canada warn of a risk to landing anywhere in the country, 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 ESCAT

You might know this as SCATANA. ESCAT is the new name, but the process is the same – if you’re overflying the OEJD/Jeddah FIR and hear “ESCAT 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.

ESCAT 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. There are some special routes that you have to fly in the southern part of the OEJN/Jeddah FIR, as advised by Notam, and you can find these in AIP SUP 02/21.

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 ESCAT area in the south. 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.

Further reading

  • Drone and rocket attacks on Saudi Arabia are a persistent threat, and for the past few years nearly all of these have all come from Yemen in the south. But now it looks like some are getting launched from Iraq in the north too.
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More on the topic:

More reading:

David Mumford

David Mumford

I am an OPSGROUP team member and flight dispatcher. Based in beautiful Brighton, England. Question for us? Write to blog.team@ops.group.

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