Yemen’s Houthis Claim Saudi F-15 Kill with SAM Over Capital City of Santis

Jan 09 2018 - 30 Comments
By Tom Demerly

FLIR Images Show F-15 Shoot-Down, Weapon Used May Have Been Repurposed AAM.

Images and video have surfaced of what is claimed to be a Royal Saudi Air Force F-15 Eagle being shot down by an unspecified surface to air (SAM) missile over Yemen’s capital city of Sanaa. The video is alleged to have been obtained using a ground-mounted forward-looking infra-red sensor usually mounted on helicopters for surveillance and targeting: most probably a Flir Systems ULTRA 8500.

The clip appears to show an F-15 Eagle, version unknown.

The video is shot from the right side of the aircraft, and as the aircraft rolls right, the height of the starboard (right) vertical stabilizer/rudder appears to be shorter than normal on an F-15, as though part of it is already missing: someone suggested that may have already sustained damaged to at least one of its vertical stabilizers even though this seems to be a bit far-fetched based on the available clip.

The F-15 as seen from the FLIR Systems camera (the presence of the logo is weird/unusual).

Immediately after this right rolling maneuver two bright objects, glowing from their heat signature in the infra-red video, are separated from the aircraft that lit the afterburners (based on the glowing . These seem to be flares, countermeasures ejected against heat-seeking surface-to-air missiles.

The missile nears the F-15 seemingly flying with afterburners (YT screenshot)

The aircraft then rolls right again and the profile of the F-15’s canopy can be seen, appearing to be a single-seat version, but difficult to confirm from the poor quality infra-red video.

A large object enters the frame from below, presumably a surface-to-air missile, either impacts the F-15 (whose engine heat signature has increased, suggesting the use of afterburner) or possibly detonates a proximity warhead near it or against a flare. The video ends without showing what happened to the F-15 following the apparent missile hit. The aircraft seems to continue flying more or less unscathed.

The F-15 is hit by the missile (YT screenshot)

Text in the YouTube video caption reads in Arabic, “The first sight of the moment hit and shot down a Saudi F-15 aircraft in the atmosphere of the Yemeni capital Sanaa” (the image used as preview in the video below does not show the RSAF F-15 but the Russian Air Force Su-24 hit by a Turkish AF F-16 in November 2015..).

Information that surfaced on Twitter shortly after the video released suggested the aircraft may have been shot down by a S-75 Dvina surface-to-air missile, a version of the venerable SA-2 Guideline SAM missile. However several sources are increasingly suggesting the F-15 was targeted by a modified R-27T based on claims that Houthis have modified a number AAMs (air-to-air missiles) to be launched from pick-ups.

The R-27 (AA-10 Alamo-B), is an IR-homing, missile with a maximum range of 63 km and a theoretical maximum allowed vertical separation of 10 km meters altitude.

If the claim of the F-15 aircraft being shot down by Houthis is confirmed, this may be one of the few instances any version of the F-15 Eagle has been shot down. The U.S. suffered the loss of F-15E Strike Eagles to anti-aircraft fire during the Gulf War back in 1991.

The Royal Saudi Air Force is believed to have a fleet of 129 active single-seat F-15C Eagles and F-15S ground attack/multi-role aircraft along with the first 13 (of 84 ordered) new F-15SA attack aircraft,

File photo of Saudi F-15 Eagle. (Photo: via Yemeni Observer)

In October 2017, the Houthi rebels claimed to have shot down a Saudi Typhoon involved in a mission supporting Operation Decisive Storm, the Saudi-led air war on the Houthi rebels in the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula.

H/T @phxasc for providing many details about the alleged downing.

  • The Last Battalion

    how hard is it to switch off infra-red mode and show the jet burning ? (serious question cause I know jack shit about military equipment)

  • AssKicker74

    The plane is good as the pilot.

    • Holztransistor

      There are several reasons why Arab armies are mostly ineffective. This article goes a bit into detail and it’s very interesting.

      When western forum posters are boasting about military success and fighter kills against Arabs (and their Soviet equipment), when the soldiers and pilots lack basic abilities to understand how to use technology, it is a bit silly. Even if Iraq had F-15s and F/A-18s they would not have performed much better. But it seems at least for the SAA, the Russian influence has changed a bit in regard to endurance and tactics. Before, Arab army units were already withdrawing when they suffered minor losses.

      Quote from the article:
      “It is particularly dangerous to make facile assumptions about abilities in warfare based on past performance, for societies evolve and so does the military subculture with it. The dismal French performance in the 1870 Franco-Prussian war led the German high command to an overly optimistic assessment prior to World War I. Then tenacity and courage of French soldiers in World War I lead everyone from Winston Churchill to the German high command vastly to overestimate the French army’s fighting abilities. Israeli generals underestimated the Egyptian army of 1973 based on Egypt’s hapless performance in the 1967 war.”

  • Tundra Meadow

    Well, a year starting like that already…

  • Leroy Cox

    Saudis admitted the loss of F-15 and of Tornado fighter-bomber. Imagine if more modern Buk-M2 and S-300PMU2 were used? F-15s would be sitting ducks. Never mind Buk-M3 and S-400. Heck, F-117 was shot down by Yugoslavia in 1999 with 1970s Soviet system.

    • Dalton Morgan

      Russian SAM’s work best agasinst passenger planes…in Syria they can’t even stop 30 year old Israeli planes from striking hezbollah at will

      • Holztransistor

        You might want to take a look at a map. The Israeli strikes were always in an area near Damascus. The Russian S300 and S400 are far up in the north. How long does it take a Israeli missile to fly 20 km over the Lebanese border to it’s target (that’s the actual window for an intercept)? How long would it take the missile from Latakia or Tartus to cover the distance?

        And then there’s Lebanese territory to cross for the Russian missiles. That would be a violation of another countries airspace. The Israelis obviously don’t care about international law and just fly there. And for western MSM it’s not worth to mention it (double standards again). But imagine the outrage in western MSM if Russian missiles would cross Lebanese airspace. They already tried that when Russian Kalibr missiles flew through Iranian airspace but then Iran clearly said they were allowed to do so.

        • Srg720

          The air defense assets in Latakia and tartus are there to protect Russian forces only.. contrary to what all the trolls here say. They’re not there to start ww3 over Syria.

          • Holztransistor

            I know. Apart from what you posted, there is another reason not to do that. I wanted to point that out.

        • Viktor Amruš

          And there’s this thing called a radar horizon.

          Even without mountains, due to the curvature of the Earth, all Israelis would need to do to avoid being hit at the distance of 100km is stay below 500m,

          And Latakia is 250 km from Damascus.Radar horizon at that distance is at 3500m. So, they could fly at 3000m and ground based Russian radars couldn’t even detect them.

          They do have A-50U AWACS over there, but it’s really far fetched that S-400 missile launched from Latakia would successfully hit Israeli plane 250 kilometers away.

    • twistedneck

      We also don’t know what kind of SEAD was in place.. usually there will be a few jamming aircraft and the threat of Wild Weasels to keep the SAMs at least somewhat quiet.

      Looks like he had enough warning i.e. the flares but I did not see him take evasive action. Not sure if that’s due to two missiles coming at him.

    • Graeme Rymill

      “Saudis admitted the loss of F-15”
      I don’t suppose you have a link because I can find no official confirmation of the F-15 only the Tornado.

    • FelixA9

      But hey, let’s cancel the F-35 and buy -insert preferred 4th gen aircraft here-.

    • TT

      1960. soviet system*

  • Trut Tella

    Very nice work.

    There’s always a great contrast between the Shiite elements in the Middle East, and Sunnis like the Sunnis, especially the Saudis who can’t even put up a shed without having a hundred Indonesians to do it for them.

    It certainly makes one wonder about the wisdom of foreign policy that supports the later- especially when the Saudi government planned the 9/11 attacks.

  • Joe Bleau

    I smell taqiyya.

  • dave

    looks like they missed

    • dimkar

      Missiles only need explode near the target and the projectiles inside the warhead will hit it

  • AssKicker74

    Oh Leroy, where are you? Are you going to bash US planes? Of course not, because he is a troll! If this was a Russian plane, he would be having a field day right now.

    • leroy

      Well AssLicker74, perhaps because it was flown by an Arab pilot, and as I have said before – Arabs can’t fly! Seems Holtztransister agrees when he states; ” Arab … pilots lack basic abilities to understand how to use technology.” Israel proved this. The US proved this. And the same goes for Iran and their low-skilled pilots (couldn’t even beat Saddam’s pitiful AF for 8 long years). So if this was indeed a shootdown of an F-15, it don’t count against the Eagle’s unbroken record of something like 144 kills to 0 losses.

      • AssKicker74

        Which proved my point below stating, “The plane is good as the pilot”…

      • AssKicker74

        As stated above, “The plane is good as the pilot”…

      • Holztransistor

        You got something wrong. Iraq tried to win against Iran with the backing of the west and still failed. That proves that Persians are better fighters.

  • Anton Verberne

    Other sources claim the the Houthis themselves claim this F-15 was only damaged but that a Tornado was actually shot down. The video also seems to confirm the F-15 was able to continue.

  • Srg720

    How can this be? According to Leroy the Imaginative troll, american aircraft are impervious to Russian missiles!

  • razz1964

    That image appears to me to be a single engine contrail…thus not a dual engine f15. That’s what the video appears to be.

  • Don1024

    While I do agree that that F-15 was hit, I don’t agree that it was shot down. A couple of points:
    1) When the missile exploded there was an exceptional amount of debris; more than can be accounted for by just the detonation. The aircraft was hit; probably, the right stabilator was blown off.
    2) The engine plum did not flicker or change intensity during or post detonation; the engines are fine.
    3) The flight path of the fuselage did not change post detonation; the aircraft maintained directional control through the end of the video.
    From these, I believe the aircraft was damaged, but still flyable.
    As to piloting skills, if you’re tossing flares, you’re maneuvering… this pilot didn’t maneuver and didn’t continue dumping flares. Bad.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    The pilot knew he was under threat and took no real evasive action. I was expecting the eagle to be at least making the missile work at it. There’s no indication the missile was spoofed at all by the flares. I assume the aircraft was throwing chaff as well? Looks like a right wing hit, you can see what seems to the the pressure wave of the explosion roll the aircraft to the left.

    As to this being an SA-2/S-75 I’m not convinced. First off I see what looks like a solid rocket fuel exhaust. Note how after the plume is fully expanded the plume is still clumped together (smoke/particulate) and not dissipated and near background like the air/JP efflux of the eagle. The top stage of a S-75 burns RFNA-Kerosine, and it’s efflux should look similar. Additionally I think I can see unburned solid fuel chunks being thrown out the nozzle that then burn very slowly. Several chunks can be seem exiting the missile. Also consider this, the S-75 upper stage is huge, it’s s good fraction of the size of the F-15. Scale the ground crew to the upper stage in this image.

    Also given the S-75’s large size, its warhead is also quite large, and has a wide blast radius. Look at the standoff ability of the S-75 to damage aircraft from a large distance by blast effect alone.

    Note how the blast radius is larger than an F-4 and it’s obvious lethal radius is more than two aircraft lengths.

    Also, I have questions about the sensor and what it was attached to. The apparent size and aspect POV of the F-15 does not change much, and the FLIR unit looks quite small. There’s not a lot of aperture there. If this is a ground based observation maybe it was mounted to a telescope on a tracked mount with telephoto capability. Or the F-15 was circling around the area where the FLIR was operating. If the F-15 was flying in roughly a strait line, it would seem that the FLIR unit was mounted on a stabilized platform on an aircraft of some sort at high speed because it seems to keep up with the F-15 even when it’s in afterburner. Let’s say the FIIR unit is on the ground and the F-15 is only traveling 200 kts, that’s 0.064 miles/sec, the entire engagement ran for 24 seconds, so the F-15 would have traveled at least 1.5 miles, I would expect a much more variable angular size of the entire scene, instead it remains pretty constant. I’m assuming the F-15 is traveling much faster, and thus the change in geometry vis-a-vis a ground based camera would be much more dynamic. That’s a really impressive tracked variable zoom optical system if it’s on the ground, or the opposition is getting away with operating aircraft in the combat zone. The Saudi’s may not be clearing out the airspace.

    • leroy

      Nice analysis!

  • Buck Turgidson

    Looks like a miss to me. No change in flight path, no change in airframe / afterbuner plume image, and no debris from the target.