For many of the national security teams that monitor threats on the U.S., the apparent drone strike Saturday on the heart of Saudi Arabia’s oil production facilities was the realization of their worst fears.
Based on early reports, multiple relatively inexpensive drone devices were able to pierce Saudi defenses in a way that a traditional air force could not: flying long distances to drop potent bombs that apparently set vast portions of the Saudi petroleum infrastructure ablaze.
“This has the potential to be as significant as Pearl Harbor,” said Randy Larsen, a former professor and department head at the U.S. military’s National War College.
The attack, for which Houthi rebels battling Saudi Arabia in Yemen took credit, underscored the fears raised by U.S. security officials and experts in terrorism about the rapid evolution of technologies allowing expanded unmanned flight.
“The bottom line is that we are likely to see many more of these sorts of attacks, and in particular, coordinated attacks on multiple targets are likely, possibly in tandem with a cyber attack component,” Milena Rodban, an independent risk consultant based in Washington, said in an email.