Friday 12 March 2021

Houthi Rebels Unveil Host of Weaponry, Compounding Drone and Missile Threat

By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans  
Amidst a conflict that has by now outlived the comforts of its international participants, Yemen's Houthi rebels claim to have developed new missiles and drones to use on the Saudi-led Arab Coalition supporting the government. Much of the weaponry in question appears to be 'Made in Iran' and have been utilised before in combat in the previous months and years, and there is an obvious propaganda aspect to the exhibition for the purpose of which various types of weaponry now no longer in use have been held back. Nevertheless, the threat posed by the Houthi's ballistic missiles and UAVs is evidently escalating, at a time when the intervention seems to be essentially at a standstill.

The newly-unveiled 'Wa'aed' loitering munition, an Iranian type of loitering munition that strongly resembles those used in in the 2019 Abqaiq–Khurais attack on Saudi Arabia and several drone attacks on the country since.

The newly-unveiled Samad-4 unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) with two unguided projectiles under its wings. Although they are profilic users of loitering munitions, this is the first type of UCAV to enter service with the Houthis. While its projectiles are unguided, it is still perfectly suited for attacking enemy bases, storage facilities and troop concentrations.

The newly-unveiled 'Khatif' loitering munition. This is the smallest type of loitering munition unveiled by the Houthis so far, and due to its short effective range is likely limited to striking targets inside Yemen.
The newly unveilved 'Shihab' loitering munition. Not much is known about this design other than that is clearly based on the Samad series of UAVs.
The 'Samad-2' loitering munition, which was first publicly unveiled in 2019 and has been used in many attacks since. A long range version also exists: The 'Samad-3'.

A 'Samad-3' loitering munition (front) and a Samad-1 reconnaissance drone (rear). Like all of the aforementioned drones, these are Iranian-designed as well.

'Qasef-1' and 'Qasef-2K' loitering munitions, which are based on the Iranian Ababil-2T UAV. Once the primary types of loitering munition used by the Houthis, they have now largely been superseded by the more capable Samad series.

The newly-unveiled 'Mersad' reconnaissance drone, which shares the same overall layout as the U.S. RQ-21 Blackjack UAV but is likely of Iranian origin as well.

The 'Rased-1' reconnaissance drone. Like several other ''indigenous drone designs'' unveiled by the Houthis before, this is actually a commercially obtainable model (Skywalker X8 UAV). It is unknown if this model features any internal differences from the 'Rased' that was unveiled in February 2017.

The newly-unveiled 'Rujum' quadcopter that can be armed with up to six small mortar grenades. Perhaps unsurprisingly at this point, the Rujum is an imported civilian model (YD6-1000S) that has been adapted for military use.

The newly-unveiled 'Nabaa' surveillance quadcopter, which appears to be an imported civilian model as well.

The Houthis also unveiled a number of new guided rockets and missiles, including the 'Saeer' and 'Qasim' guided rockets, the 'Qasim-2' ballistic missile and the 'Quds-2' cruise missile. These were put on display alongside several designs already unveiled several years ago, these being the Badr-1 unguided rocket, the Badr-1P guided rocket, the Zelzal-3 artillery rocket and the Borkan-H2 and Qaher-M2 ballistic missiles.

The newly-unveiled 'Saeer' and 'Qasim' guided rockets. It is likely that both of these rockets feature different payloads or an improved guidance system which allow them to more accurately hit their targets compared to the earlier Badr-1P (a variant of the Iranian Fajr-5B).

The newly-unveiled 'Nakal' ballistic missile, which appears to be an improved version of the Badr-F unveiled back in April 2019. Contrary to most other rockets and missiles unveiled by the Houthis in the past several years, this missile has not yet been linked to a known Iranian design. That is not to say that no such connection exists, as the Houthis operate several more types of Iranian designed-weaponry that appear to have been specifically designed to meet the needs of the Houthis and never entered service with the Iranian military.
The newly-unveiled 'Qasim-2' ballistic missile. Not much is known about this design.

The 'Zolfaghar', which is based on the Qiam ballistic missile and consists of components supplied by Iran. This missile was previously given the designation of Borkan-3 by the Houthis.

The newly-unveiled 'Quds-2' cruise missile, which is a variant of the Soumar family of cruise missiles supplied by Iran. It appears extremely similar to the Quds cruise missile unveilved by the Houthis in April 2019, but might feature several internal improvements that warranted a new designation. Another, more simple explanation is that like the aforementioned Zolfaghar the Houthis simply issued a name change.

The 'Borkan-H2', yet another type of ballistic missile that consists of components supplied by Iran and is based on the Qiam ballistic missile. The first recorded launch of the Borkan-H2 was in July 2017, and has since been superseded by the Borkan-3 (now designated as Zolfaghar).

The Zelzal-3 (a cannibalised 9M21 rocket of the 9K52 Luna-M system) is shown alongside various types of unguided rockets. Although the Luna-M was already retired by Yemen before the Houthi takeover of the country, the latter set out to scavenge as many of the 9M21 rocket parts that hadn't yet been scrapped as it could. These were then used to produce two types of short-ranged artillery rockets: The Zelzal-3 and the Samood. Owing to the limited amount of 9M21 parts available, only a small number of each type was produced and quickly spent in combat. Its inclusion in the display can thus be described as an attempt at making the Houthi's rocket arsenal look more imposing than it really is.
The Qaher-M2 ballistic missile, which constitutes little more than a modified Soviet V-750 missile of the S-75 SAM system inherited from pre-war Yemeni Army stocks. After the Houthi takeover in Yemen, large numbers of surviving V-750 missiles were repurposed as ground-to-ground missiles under the designation Qaher-1 and Qaher-M2. Almost all of these were subsequently spent in combat, and its presence here doesn't represent a genuine attempt at showing off current capabilities.
The Houthis also showcased no less than different eleven naval mines. For more on the Houthi's usage of naval mines be sure to check out HI Sutton's article on Houthi naval capabilities.

The Karrar-3, the Aseef-4, 3, 2 and 1 and the Thaqib

The Auwais

The al-Nazi'at

The Mujahid

The Karrar-1

The Karrar-2

The Karrar-3

The Shawaz and Thaqib

Various types of homemade sniper rifles and anti-materiel rifles (AMRs). Houthi rebels are profilic users of DIY anti-materiel rifles, which thanks to their heavy calibre can penetrate the armour of most infantry mobility vehicles (IMVs) currently in widespread use with opposing forces in Yemen.

Two 8mm Saarem sniper rifles (upgraded Yugoslav Zastava M48s) with bayonets fitted, an Iranian 12.7mm AM-50 AMR and a 12.7mm Khatef AMR

Another type of 12.7mm AMR designated as Khatef

Two 14.5mm Ashtars (left and middle) and a 23mm Zolfhagar-1 (right) AMR

A rear view of the two Ashtar AMRs

Another view of the Zolfhagar-1 with a 20mm Hasem AMR located directly behind it

The 30mm Qassem AMR, arguably the strongest and also the most cumbersome weapon of its kind in the world

A display of ''indigenous'' RPGs together with some of the types of rocket propelled grenades they fire. The much dreaded RPG-29 seems not to be the original Russian design, but rather an Iranian simplified copy that has meanwhile also found its way to Iraq and Syria. [1] Likewise, the RPG-7s are suspiciously similar to several designs previously intercepted on their way to Yemen from Iran, and were likely supplied outright rather than produced in Yemen.

Three ''indigenously-manufactured'' mortars were also put on display: The 60mm Rujoom-60, 82mm Rujoom-82 and 120mm Rojoom-120. Like the aforementioned RPG launchers, the mortars appear to be either Iranian designs or foreign designs delivered by Iran. The mortar rounds used by them might well have been indigenously produced however.
Special thanks to Calibre Obscura.