Saudis to foot the bill for refueling in Yemen fight
U.S. Air Force tankers are standing by to provide fuel for Saudi Arabian pilots as they combat extremists in Yemen, but the U.S. won’t foot the bill.
The Saudi government requested U.S. tanker support for their fighter pilots, and the U.S. agreed as long as the Saudis reimburse the gas bill, Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren said Tuesday. The tankers are standing by, but have not launched for a refueling sortie yet.
“The aerial refueling in this operation to support the Saudis and other members of the coalition has been agreed with on a reimbursable basis,” Warren said. “We are standing by, but no refueling yet. They requested the capability to be made available.”
The U.S. is also providing intelligence in support of the operation.
Saudi Arabian fighters are the lead of a Gulf Cooperation Council operation against Houthi fighters in Yemen. The U.S. also has about a dozen representatives in a “fusion center” to provide logistics for the operation.
Warren said no U.S. aircraft would enter Yemeni airspace to provide refueling.
The U.S. is also standing by for rescue operations, but Warren would not say if the U.S. would enter Yemeni territory on a rescue mission.
U.S. Air Force pararescuemen have already been active in the operation. Air Force PJs last month were sent from Camp Lemmonier, Djibouti, to rescue two Saudi pilots who ejected from their F-15 over the Gulf of Aden. The jet went down in international waters, and the U.S. service members were not at risk in the operation.