New footage released by the Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) shows Yemen's sole ballistic missile storage depot to be the latest target hit by Saudi aircraft in a bombing campaign that enters its third consecutive day. The warehouses seen obliterated by large explosions in the video below are located in the Republican Guard's base on a hill just outside of the capital of Sana'a, and stored a large portion of Yemen's R-17 Elbrus (Scud-B) missiles and Transporter Erector Launchers (TEL).
The site was hit for a second time on the 30th of March 2015. The resulting explosions ultimately caused the destruction of all ballistic missile systems. The video of the explosions can be seen here.
The Group of Missile Forces of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Yemen, located in Sana'a, is responsible for operating Yemen's ballistic missiles. Due to the large amount of changes the Missile Forces were subject to over the past twenty-five years, it remains difficult to find their exact structure and naming. It is known that a total of thee brigades (The 5th, the 6th and 8th Brigade) form the core of the Missile Forces,
The People's Democratic Republic of Yemen, more commonly known as South Yemen, acquired its ballistic missiles in 1978, when one Scud-B brigade with twelve TELs was delivered by the Soviet Union. Also acquired was a brigade of 9K52 Luna-M artillery rockets, allowing for the establishment of two missile brigades. The Yemen Arab Republic, also known as North Yemen, introduced its first surface-to-surface missile assets only in the late eighties, when a brigade with eighteen of the more modern OTR-21 Tochka TELs and associated missiles was acquired.
The two missile brigades of the former People's Democratic Republic of Yemen were captured after the defeat of its forces, and were taken to Sana'a to be incorporated in the Armed Forces of unified Yemen. New Missile Brigades were subsequently established, and apart from the 9K52 Luna-M operating Missile Brigade, which was disbanded at the turn of the 21st century, they remained in service until this day. The rockets formerly used by the 9K52 Luna-Ms were left to rot in the open, and were only disposed of in 2012.
|On the South side: A row of BAZ-5921 TELs used for the OTR-21 Tochka.|
On the East side: Discarded 9K52 Luna-M artillery rockets.
The Missile Brigades remained heavily dependant on foreign experts to operate their Scuds and OTR-21s throughout the 90s and 21st century however, and several Belarusians and Russians were permanently attached to the missile brigades to ensure they would remain operational. The amount of operational Scud TELs had meanwhile diminished to ten, with the operational status of the OTR-21s not being much better. Although the acquisition of several North Korean missiles and associated launchers might have improved the situation.
|A warehouse on top of Faj Attan mountain (Sana'a), the home of Yemen's missile forces, with a single R-17 Elbrus (Scud-B) in front of it.|
When the Houthis continued their assault on Yemen's capital Sana'a and ousted the government of President Hadi in January 2015, they quickly took control of all the military facilities located in and around the capital. This included the Republican Guard's bases, one of them housing Yemen's ballistic missiles. While it remains unknown how much of the technical personnel remained at their posts, and if any of the foreign experts were still present, it is unlikely that the Houthis were able to continue operating these sophisticated systems without help from foreign experts or Iran.
Saudi Arabia took no risk with these dangerous systems however and decided to destroy the site and the warehouses holding Yemen's Scud-Bs. Although no footage has been released showing the OTR-21 holding area being bombed, it is certain these were not exempt from the bombing run.
As the Saudi-led coalition continues bombing Houthi targets in Yemen and gears up to a limited ground deployment to ensure the city of Aden does not fall into Houthi hands, more and more of Yemen's strategic military equipment is destroyed. Wether or not this will mean the coalition is capable of achievings its goals remains to be seen.
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