Riyadh – A Saudi pilot whose father did not put him in a different classification from his group during military operations, instead, he was one of the first Saudi pilots who took part in flights within the US-led coalition against ISIS since late 2014.
Prince Khaled bin Salman bin Abdulaziz is one of the youngest ambassadors in the history of Saudi embassies abroad. He received a Bachelor of Aero Science from King Faisal Air Academy and continued his studies in the United States at Harvard University, earning a certificate in Senior Executives in National and International Security. He also studied advanced electronic warfare in Paris.
He began graduate work at Georgetown University, pursuing an MA in Security Studies, but they were suspended due to different job assignments and his appointment as Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to the United States.
Upon his graduation from King Faisal Air Academy, Prince Khaled joined the Royal Saudi Air Force. He started his career as a pilot on the Texan-6 and T-38 in Columbus Air Force Base in Mississippi.
He later began the F15-S Flying program as a pilot, and was assigned as a Tactical Intelligence Officer in addition to flying F-15S in the 92nd Squadron for the 3rd Flying Wing at King Abdulaziz Air Base in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.
Prince Khaled trained extensively with the US military, both in the United States and Saudi Arabia, including at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.
A back injury however forced him to stop flying, so he worked as an officer in the office of the minister of defense.
Trained as a fighter pilot with almost 1,000 hours in total flight time, Prince Khaled has flown missions against ISIS as part of the International Coalition. He also flew a mission over Yemen as part of Operation Decisive Storm and Operation Renewal of Hope.
For his service in the Saudi Air Force, Prince Khaled has been widely decorated, including being awarded the Operation South Shield Medal, the Battlefield Medal, the Workmanship Medal and Abdullah’s Sword Exercise Medal.
Prince Khaled was appointed to office of the Minister of Defense after his active duty ended, subsequently becoming a senior civilian advisor.
Late in 2016, he moved to the United States and served as an advisor to the Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the US.
He is seen as a modern-day version of Bandar bin Sultan, who also trained as a fighter pilot before dominating the US-Saudi relationship for more than two decades as ambassador in Washington.
The United States and Saudi Arabia have a decades-old relationship based on the exchange of American security for Saudi oil.
However, ties between Riyadh and Washington became increasingly frayed during the administration of former President Barack Obama. Saudi leaders felt Obama was reluctant to get involved in the civil war in Syria and was tilting toward Riyadh’s regional rival Iran.
The Saudis have found a more favorable ear in Washington under Trump, who took office in January and has denounced Iran’s “harmful influence” in the Middle East.