Sunday, 17 May 2015

Are Yemen's Houthis still capable of launching ballistic missiles?

By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans

Recent footage coming out of Yemen's 'Amran Governorate indicate that despite the heavy bombing of Yemen's ballistic missile depots by the Saudi-led Coalition, the Houthis might still have the means to launch ballistic missiles at their disposal. The site housing the Group of Missile Forces of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Yemen was heavily hit as part of Operation Decisive Storm, and the resulting explosions were thought to have resulted in the destruction of all of Yemen's ballistic missiles and associated launchers.

In fact, the Saudi Defense Ministry went as far to claim that it had ''successfully eliminated the threat to the security of Saudi Arabia and neighboring countries'', and was thus ending Operation Decisive Storm, replacing it by the more humanitarian-oriented Operation Restoring Hope.[1]

But now it appears that the threat, while however greatly diminished, is not yet completely eliminated. A video, depicting one of Yemen's Transporter Erector Launchers used for launching R-17 Elbrus (Scud-B) or Hwasŏng-5/6 ballistic missiles on a tank trailer underway in the 'Amran Governorate, North of Sana'a, during the Saudi-declared humanitarian truce leaves little doubt on that some launch systems have survived the Saudi-led bombing campaign, possibly while stored in residential areas if rumours prove to be true.

Jordanian security officials, one of the best, if not the best informed on security matters in the Middle East, recently claimed that Iran succeeded in supplying Yemen's Houthi rebels with ballistic missiles, reportedly of the Scud-B and Scud-C type.[2] This possible Iranian delivery in combination with the North Korean delivery of Hwasŏng-5 or Hwasŏng-6 missiles and launchers in the early 2000s means that the amount of ballistic missiles present in Yemen thus might have been much larger than originally thought, increasing the chances that at least some of the systems and missiles have indeed survived the bombing campaign, and may still be in operational condition.

Strangely enough, the Transporter Erector Launcher (TEL) seen in the video is missing two of its four wheels on the right sight of the MAZ-543, which would greatly hinder or even prevent the launch of a ballistic missile.

Getting a missile to the TEL undetected will surerly also pose a great challenge for the Houthis, and increased monitoring of Yemen's major roads might prevent transport in broad daylight. Alternatively, the TEL might actually be underway to a location holding one or more missiles, instead of the other way around.

Although it remains to be seen if the Houthis are indeed capable of transporting and mating a missile to the handicaped TEL, and have the technical personnel or Iranian 'advisors' to get it all to work, the sudden appearance of the TEL in broad daylight makes one wonder what other equipment still survives, and serves as an indication that this war is still far from over.

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  1. It appears that they launched some SCUDS and could have scored a success.
    Some time ago Iranian media claimed that scuds launched killed "dozens" of Saudi and Israelian officers on 6 June.

    It seemed a propaganda claim, but it seems that indeed some missiles evaded a shield of Patriot missiles and could be related to the death of this Saudi General.

    Note, this second site it's israelian.

    1. ''killed "dozens" of Saudi and Israelian officers on 6 June.''

      Yeah... Oh well, you already said ''Iranian media''.

      ''could be related to the death of this Saudi General.''

      No, Muhammad bin Ahmed al-Shaalan's death isn't in any way related to the situation in Yemen. He wasn't even in Saudi Arabia when he died!

    2. So they say the Saudi. I'm not 100% trusting their sources either...
      And it's slightly suspicious he died of "heart attack" exactly on these days in unclear location.

    3. Their sources? It was the commander of the RSAF!

      But let's blame his death on a Houthi hit squad that killed him somewhere in Europe or on a supposed Scud strike if that's what you prefer.

    4. So?

      Saudi Arabia and other western-friendly media of the region has already showed to be partial and sometimes biased in reporting news from the local conflicts.

      I think that being a serious analyst means also relying and checking all the sources and valuate them with impartiality.

      This is especially true for losses: if you check Houthi and Iranian claims, you see countless of unproved losses of Saudi in the air strikes.
      BUT at the same time, each time they lost something (the Apache, the Marocco's F-16) it was ever for "crash" accident.

      It's a very old story from back Vietnam: when you lost something, first you say "It's crashed", not.."Maybe was shot down".

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  3. They hit a coalition base near Taiz, yesterday, reportedly killing 152 Coalition troops including two commanders and a number of mercs. Tochka again.

    The commanders are being mourned in Saudi and UAE sources the 150 others are not big news. The ceasefire to-day was delayed by 12 hours, probably to allow a hit back.

    They aren't supposed to be able to do this but the Coalition figures they are pretty well out of rockets.