Category Archives: Yemen

Ballistic Missile Strike Intercepted by Saudis over Capital City Riyadh

Ballistic Missile Fired by Houthi Rebels Showers Arab Capital with Debris.

Houthi rebels inside Yemen have claimed responsibility for a short range ballistic missile attack against the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh on Nov. 4. An announcement made on social media from Houthi rebels inside Yemen claimed that King Khalid International Airport was the intended target for the missile strike on Saturday night.

The Houthi ballistic missile, a Burkan H-2 according to media sources across the Middle East, is a mobile short-range ballistic missile armed with a conventional 500-kilogram warhead. In some variants, the missile can carry a nuclear warhead. The missile is roughly similar to the Scud missiles used by Iraq during the Gulf wars.

The Burkan H-2 Short Range Ballistic Missile type that was fired by Houthi rebels against the Saudi capital. (Photo: Al Arabiya)

The Burkan H-2 was intercepted by a Saudi anti-missile defense system, likely a U.S. supplied Raytheon MIM-104 Patriot anti-missile system. The Saudis also employ the Raytheon Improved Hawk air defense system, primarily for defense against aircraft. The Saudis have new THAAD (Terminal High-Altitude Air Defense) anti-missile systems on order from the U.S. but have not yet received the more advanced system.

The following video allegedly shows the anti-missile defense system at work during the attack.

According to information published on Al Arabiya, an official spokesman for the coalition forces in support of legitimacy inside Yemen, the anti-Houthi government of Yemen, Colonel Turki al-Maliki said that, “At 8:07 pm local time a rocket was fired from within the territory of Yemen towards the territory of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

In the official Yemeni government media statement made Saturday Colonel al-Maliki went on to say, “The rocket was aimed at the capital of Riyadh and was launched indiscriminately and absurdly to target the civilian and populated areas, where it was intercepted and the fragments fell in an uninhabited area east of King Khalid International Airport.”

A photo widely circulated in Middle Eastern media claims to show debris from the Houthi ballistic missile after it was shot down by Saudi defenses over the capital Riyadh. (Photo: Al Arabiya)

The official Yemeni government has been at war with the Houthi rebellion inside Yemen since June 2004. The Houthi ballistic missile attack against Saudi Arabia from inside a rebel controlled area of Yemen is in retaliation for Saudi support of the Yemeni government. The Saudi support of the Yemeni government began in 2015.

On October 27, 2017, the Houthi’s claimed to have shot down a Royal Saudi Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon multirole aircraft over the Yemeni capital city of Sana’a. It was the second time the Saudis lost a Typhoon over Yemen during Operation Decisive Storm, the Saudi-led air campaign against the Houthis inside Yemen.

Arab news outlets report a similar missile strike was launched from Houthi controlled territory toward Saudi Arabia on October 30. The missile fell far short of its intended target in Saudi Arabia, landing inside Yemen after a possible malfunction.

Al Masirah, a TV network run by the Houthi rebels, also claimed responsibility for the attack on their social media account.

Al Masirah, the Houthi rebel television network, claimed responsibility for the missile attack on Saudi Arabia from their own Twitter account. (Photo: Al Jazeera)

Top image: combo from Social Media posts (via Arab News)

Yemen’s Houthi Rebels Claim They Have Shot Down A Saudi Eurofighter Typhoon Over Yemen

Yemeni media outlets are reporting that a Royal Saudi Air Force Typhoon was shot down over Yemen yesterday. However no pictures have been released to back Houthi rebels claims, so far.

According to several still unconfirmed media reports, a RSAF Typhoon fighter was shot down by Yemen’s Shia Houthi rebels on Oct. 27. The fate of the pilot is unknown at the time of writing. No images of the wreckage or any other kind of evidence have been released so far.

“Yemen’s air defense unit told the country’s Arabic-language al-Masirah television network that the aircraft had been targeted with a surface-to-air missile as it was flying in the skies over Nihm district east of the Yemeni capital city of Sana’a on Friday evening,” Yemen Press reported.

For the moment there haven’t been comments by the Saudi-led coalition over the Houthi claims. Still, Saudi sources, including popular Saudi military aviation expert @MbKS15, deny the accident has occurred, saying it’s just propaganda.

Earlier this month, on Oct. 1, a U.S. MQ-9 Reaper drone was shot down over Sanaa: footage filmed from several different locations (the UAV was over the capital in daylight conditions when it was destroyed) depicted the incident from start to finish.

If confirmed, this would be the second Saudi Typhoon lost over Yemen while supporting Operation Decisive Storm, the Saudi-led air war on the Houthi rebels in the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula: indeed, a RSAF Eurofighter crashed into a mountain in Al Wade’a district on Sept. 13. Back then, the cause of the crash was an alleged technical failure during a CAS (Close Air Support) mission. The pilot, identified as Mahna al-Biz, died in the accident.

Anyway, provide the reports are accurate and a Typhoon has really been shot down, the accident would be the fourth crash of a Eurofighter jet in one a a half months: along with the already mentioned RSAF Typhoon combat aircraft that crashed in Yemen on Sept. 13, 2017, on Sept. 24, an Italian Air Force Typhoon crashed into the sea while performing its solo display during the Terracina airshow killing the test pilot, whereas on Oct. 12, a Spanish Air Force Eurofighter crashed into the ground while returning to Albacete after taking part in the National Day Parade over Madrid.

We will update this post as soon as new official details/confirmation/denial emerge.

Top image credit: Alessandro Fucito

Saudi Eurofighter Typhoon Crashes During Combat Mission In Yemen, Killing The Pilot

A Royal Saudi Air Force Typhoon has crashed in Yemen’s southern province of Abyan, Yemen, killing the pilot.

A RSAF Typhoon combat aircraft involved in a mission against Houthi fighters over Yemen crashed into a mountain in Al Wade’a district on Sept. 13, 2017.

The pilot, identified as Mahna al-Biz, died in the incident that follows the one of a UAE pilot, who was also reportedly killed in another crash in Yemen last week, said Yemen’s Saba news agency.

According to the first (unconfirmed) reports on social networks, the aircraft suffered a technical failure during a CAS (Close Air Support) mission.

Codenamed Operation Decisive Storm, the Saudi air war on Yemen started in 2015 with the goal to counter the Houthi offensive on Aden, the provisional capital town of the internationally recognized (yet domestically contested) Yemeni government.

Warplanes from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, and Bahrain are taking part in the operation.

The RSAF operates a fleet of 72 Typhoons (including the one that crashed yesterday), based at King Fahad Air Base, Taif.

The incident on Sept. 13, is the third deadly incident of the Euro-canard aircraft after the ones that involved two Spanish Typhoons (on Aug. 24, 2010, and Jun. 9, 2014) and the second to kill a Saudi pilot: the 2010 incident saw a Spanish twin-seat Typhoon crash at Spain’s Morón Air Base short after take-off for a training flight. It was being piloted by a Lieutenant Colonel of the Royal Saudi Arabian Air Force, who was killed, and a Spanish Air Force Major, who ejected safely. All the six Eurofighter users grounded or restricted operations with their aircraft as a result of the Spanish accident, because of concerns surrounding the Mk16A ejection seat’s harness. “Under certain conditions, the quick release fitting could be unlocked using the palm of the hands, rather than the thumb and fingers and that this posed a risk of inadvertent release,” Martin-Baker said after the incident that led to a modification to the Typhoon seats that was developed to eliminate the risk.

Image credit: Fahd Rihan

 

 

 

Royal Saudi Air Force F-15s and Typhoons fly to Sudan to train with the Sudanese MIGs and Sukhois for the very first time

Blue Shield-1 exercise underway in Sudan. An interesting opportunity for the Saudi pilots to train with Russian-built combat planes.

The Royal Saudi Air Force has deployed 4 F-15C Eagles and 4 Eurofighter Typhoons, from the 2nd Wing based at King Fahd Air Base, to Sudan for the first time.

The Saudi combat planes have arrived at Merowe Air Base, located about 330 km to the north of Khartoum, to take part in Ex. Blue Shield-1, a joint aerial exercise with the Sudanese Air Force, until Apr. 12.

The Saudi Eagles arrive in Sudan

A Eurofighter Typhoon after landing at Merowe Air Base, Sudan.

Two RSAF Eurofighter jets taxi after arriving in Sudan.

The Sudanese Air Force is taking part in the drills with 24 aircraft including MiG-29 Fulcrum, Su-25 Frogfoot and Su-24 Fencer jets as well as Mi-17 Hip helicopters.

Taking part in Blue Shield-1 exercise are also 24 Sudanese aircraft, including these Su-25 Frogfoots.

Sudan’s Air Force Su-25s and MiG-29s based at Merowe Air Base.

Blue Shield -1 exercise is the very first aerial exercise between the two nations therefore it represents an interesting opportunity for the RSAF pilots to train flying with and aganist Russian “hardware.”

Interestingly, the RSAF hasn’t deployed any twin seaters to Sudan, which will not give the Sudanese any chance for orientation rides aboard the Saudi “western” aircraft.

A RSAF F-15C depicted taxing at Merowe Air Base.

The Saudi F-15S and Typhoons have taken part in the air strikes in Yemen, as part of Operation Decisive Storm, the Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen, since Mar. 26 2015. A RSAF F-15S crashed in the Gulf of Aden during the opening day of the air war; its two pilots ejected safely and were recovered from the sea by a USAF HH-60G rescue helicopter. Although Houthi and Iranian sources stated that the Eagle was shot down, Saudi and Arab coalition authorities denied such reports.

Those deployed to Sudan are the “legacy” Eagle, less advanced than the “S” and F-15SA, derived from the F-15E Strike Eagle, and the most modern Eagle variant ever produced: they are equipped with the APG-63V3 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, a digital glass cockpit, JHMCS (Joint Helmet Mouted Cueing System), Digital Electronic Warfare System/Common Missile Warning System (DEWS/CMWS), IRST (Infra Red Search and Track) system, and able to carry a wide array of air-to-air and air-to-surface weaponry, including the AIM-120C7 AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile) and the AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, the AGM-84 SLAM-ERs, the AGM-88 HARM (High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile) and the GBU-39 SDBs (Small Diameter Bombs) on 11 external hardpoints.

The RSAF has received its first of 84 F-15SA at King Khalid Air Base (KKAB) in Saudi Arabia via RAF Lakenheath, on Dec. 13, 2016 (the day after the Israeli received their first 5th generation F-35I).

The Saudi flight line in Sudan.

The RSAF EF-2000s on a taxiway at Merowe Air Base, Sudan.

Saudi Eagle and Typhoons at their parking slots at Merowe Air Base, north of Khartoum.

In 2015 Sudan moved away from its longstanding alliance with Iran and joined the Saudi-led air coalition against Yemen’s Shia Houthi militia group.

H/T to Mohamed Khaled (@MbKS15) for providing additional information about the exercise. Image credit: Fahad Rihan

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What has emerged so far about the deadly U.S. Special Operations on Al Qaeda in Yemen

Yemen Raid by U.S. Navy Task Force Blue Yields Intelligence on Terror Operations, U.S. President Trump Flies to Dover AFB for Arrival of Fallen SEAL Remains.

Additional information has emerged about the U.S. Special Operations Command raid on an Al Qaeda installation in the Yakla Region of Baida Province, Yemen that took place over the weekend.

While details of the raid remain classified ABC13 News Now reporter Elise Brown broke a story earlier today when she reported that a source told ABC News, “It was as though Al Qaeda knew the SEALs were coming, and were ready.”

U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens, 36, from Illinois was reported as killed in action during the operation. Three other U.S. personnel were wounded during the raid and three more were reported injured during a hard landing in a U.S. Marine MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft. That aircraft was intentionally destroyed by U.S forces on the ground following the crash to prevent its recovery by adversaries.

While it is likely the raid was conducted by a composite task force of U.S. special operations personnel, CPO Owens was a member of an East Coast U.S. Navy SEa, Air, Land (SEAL) team originating from Little Creek, Virginia. Media outlets have reported that Owens was a member of the specially trained Task Force Blue often referred to as “SEAL Team Six” in mass media.

The U.S. Navy’s Task Force Blue is comprised of “Squadrons” similar to other counter-terror special operations units. Red, Gold, Blue and Silver Squadrons are operational “raid” squadrons and are often assisted and/or accompanied by members of Black Squadron, an intelligence gathering and analysis asset. It is not known which squadron CPO Owens was attached to.

Official statements reflect that the primary objective of the raid was to seize physical intelligence assets such as electronic media, computer hard drives and documents that will provide a detailed insight into terrorist planning for future Al Qaeda operations. In an official release to the Reuters News Agency the U.S. Defense Department told reporters the raid provided, “Information that will likely provide insight into the planning of future terror plots.”

According to reporting by Mohammed El Sherif in Cairo for Reuters, “The local al Qaeda unit [in Yemen] organized the Charlie Hebdo magazine attack in Paris in 2015 and has repeatedly tried to down U.S. airliners.”

The raid resulted in a “one hour firefight” according to local reports on the ground. While reports of casualties have varied most media outlets suggest between 17-30 indigenous personnel, some reported to be Al Qaeda members, were killed on the ground during the raid.

The weekend raid by U.S special operations forces was planned “well in advance” based on intelligence gathered during previous months. Timing for the raid was specific as one source inside the U.S. military speaking on conditions of anonymity reported, “There were operational reasons why it happened when it did.” A contributing factor may have been the moon phase. The raid happened during a new moon, a period when lunar illumination at the target area is at its lowest providing maximum darkness.

Approximate location of the raid (Google Earth screenshot)

Satellite images of the region show terrain that is hilly surrounding encampments and small cities at elevations usually below 1500 feet. This suggests high altitude vortex ring state was not a factor in the crash of the MV-22 Osprey during the raid.

Vortex Ring State was a potential factor in the crash of a U.S. Special Operations helicopter at the beginning of Operation Neptune Spear, the raid to capture Osama Bin Laden on May 2, 2011. Vortex ring state happens when rotary wing aircraft, such as the U.S. Marine MV-22 Ospreys used in this raid, settle into their own rotor wash and descend rapidly as a result of losing lift.

Weather in the region during the raid indicated low overnight temperatures of 70° Fahrenheit with visibility under the new moon phase of “8 miles” with moderate humidity and winds below 10 mph. These, along with the lighting conditions of the dark moon, were good conditions for the operation as reported.

Several media outlets have reported that the raid was launched from a U.S. Navy ship south of Yemen in the Gulf of Aden.

Additional air support was likely provided by U.S. Marine AH-1Z Viper gunships deployed from the same ship. Some local media reports on the ground said the gunships were “U.S. Apaches”. This is unlikely since the raid originated from a shipboard location according to reports.

The names of ships in the region are generally a matter of operational security but analysis through elimination suggests that if the raid originated from an assault ship, it could have been the USS Kearsarge, Bataan, Bon Homme Richard, Iwo Jima or Makin Island. Online sources account for the location of the assault ships USS Wasp, Essex and Boxer.

Another interesting seaborne asset recently reported in the U.S. Navy 5th Fleet area of operations is the unusually configured USS Ponce (AFSB(1)-15). The USS Ponce is an interesting possibility in this case since it has undergone modifications to support special operations, has a helicopter landing deck and other features for special operations. The USS Ponce is also used for operational testing of the shipboard Laser Weapon System (LaWS), a weapon used to repel small craft from attacking a larger vessel.

A rigid-hull inflatable boat manned by members of Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 12 enters the well deck of Afloat Forward Staging Base (Interim) USS Ponce (AFSB(I) 15). EODMU-12 is assigned to Commander, Task Group (CTG) 56.1, which provides mine countermeasures, explosive ordnance disposal, salvage-diving, counter-terrorism, and force protection for the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility (AOR). Ponce, formerly designated as an amphibious transport dock ship, was converted and reclassified to fulfill a long-standing U.S. Central Command request for an AFSB to be located in its area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Scott Raegen/Released)

Also recently reported in the area as support assets are the guided-missile destroyers USS Nitze (DDG-94) and the USS Mason (DDG-87) along with the seaborne forward staging base USS Ponce. These vessels were reported operational on station off Yemen near the Bab el-Mandeb strait that connects the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden in September. If they remain in this region they may have contributed to the operation.

U.S. special operations in Yemen have come into focus following an NBC News report on May 6, 2016 that quoted U.S. Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, as saying that, “A small number of American military personnel are in Yemen providing limited support to the Yemeni government and Arab coalition battling al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula”. This contradicts a previous report that stated “American forces have not conducted any special operations in Yemen since December 2014.”

Finally, in late breaking news Wednesday, U.S. President Donald Trump made an unannounced visit to Dover AFB in Delaware for the return of the remains of U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens killed in Sunday’s raid in Yemen. President Tump flew to Dover AFB on Marine One with his daughter Ivanka Trump and U.S. Senator Chris Coons of Delaware.


U.S. President Donald Trump and his daughter Ivanka Trump walk toward Marine One while departing from the White House, on Feb. 1, 2017, en route to Dover Air Force Base. (Credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)