IR Video Shows The Moment A Saudi Tornado Attack Jet Was Shot Down by Houthi Rebels Over Yemen

A still from the video released by the Houthi showing the downing of a RSAF Tornado over Yemen. (Image via Twitter)

Footage shows the RSAF Tornado IDS as it is shot down by Houthi’s surface-to-air missile last night.

On Feb. 14, 2020, the Houthi rebels announced they had downed a Tornado in the northern al-Jawf province, in Yemen. Later on the same day, a Royal Saudi Air Force spokeperson said that “at 23:45LT on Friday evening, an RSAF Tornado jet crashed, while conducting a CAS mission in support of the Yemeni National Army operations in Al Jouf governorate.”

So, as already happened in the past, on one side, the Saudis said the aircraft just “crashed”, on the other side, the Houthis said the Tornado had been shot down. The fate of the aircrew is unknown.

A formation of four RSAF Tornado IDS. (Image credit: Fahad Rihan via Mohamed bin Khalid)

Footage just released by the rebels seems to confirm the aircraft was indeed downed by a SAM (Surface to Air Missile).

The first part of the clip shows an IR (Infra Red) image of a Tornado IDS, coming from the right to the left of the viewing point, most probably in a right hand turn. Then, the footage shows the SAM targeting system tracking an aircraft (most probably the same one even though this is something that can’t be confirmed from distance) with some bright objects, glowing from their heat signature in the infra-red video, separated from the aircraft. These seem to be flares, countermeasures ejected against heat-seeking surface-to-air missiles. Shortly thereafter a missile can be seen flying towards the plane and hitting it. The rest of the clip shows the burning remains of the jet falling towards the ground (along with a couple of small bright objects separating from the aircraft – maybe the pilot and navigator’s ejections) and then crashing in a fireball.

According to Al Jazeera, initial reports said the plane was downed with an advanced air-to-ground missile.

Although we can’t ID the type of missile was used to shoot down the Tornado, it’s worth remembering that the Houthis have modified R-27T 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. A modified R-27 was claimed to be responsible for the downing of a Saudi F-15 in 2018.

Noteworthy, along with the modified Vympel R-27T air-to-air missiles, the Houthi rebels are known to operate a supposedly indigenous air-defence system called the Fater-1, that uses components that according to Jane’s Defense Weekly “appeared [when presented in Aug. 2019] to be identical to the 3M9 used with the 2K12 Kub/Kvadrat (SA-6 ‘Gainful’) system.

Moreover rebels may have been delivered some Sayyad 2C Surface to Air Missiles from Iran.

Here’s what we wrote in an article about the shoot-down of a UAE F-16 over Yemen in 2018:

The Sayyad-2 is an improved version of the Sayyad-1 missile, an Iranian indigenized system of a Chinese development of the Russian S-75 (SA-2 “Guideline” in NATO designation – yes, the SAM system that brought down Francis Gary Powers and his U-2 in 1960). It’s a two-staged air defense missile capable to destroy targets with a low Radar Cross Section (RCS) flying at low, medium and very high altitude (with a claimed ceiling of 80,000 feet). According to unverified data contained in articles published by Iranian media outlets in the past, the Sayyad-2 travels at 3,600 km/h (2,500 mph), has a range of 80-100 km (some sources say just 60 km), includes ECCM (Electronic Counter-Counter Measures) equipment and carries a 200-kilogram warhead.

The existence of this surface-to-air missile system, that should also integrate North Korean technology, was made public in April 2011 but the first photographs of the SAM system at work emerged during “Great Prophet 6” drills in 2012.

While we don’t know the exact type of missile used to down the Tornado, we can surely affirm the latest video proves once again that the Houthis can use the weaponry in their hands (be it heavily modified or not) against Saudi-UAE-led coalition in Yemen, in a quite effective and deadly manner.

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.