Yemen's Houthis possess hypersonic missile, report says

Yemen's Houthi rebels say they have a new hypersonic missile in their arsenal, Russian state media reported Thursday, in a move that could raise the stakes for their ongoing attacks on shipping in the Red Sea and surrounding waterways, in the context of the war waged by Israel against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. .

The report by the official RIA Novosti news agency cites an anonymous official but provides no evidence to support the claim. This comes as Moscow maintains an aggressive counter-Western foreign policy amid its bitter war against Ukraine.

However, the Houthis have hinted for weeks at the “surprises” they are planning for sea battles to counter the United States and its allies, who have so far managed to shoot down any missile or bomb-carrying drone s approaching their warships in the Middle East. waters.


The Houthis' main benefactor, Iran, claims to possess a hypersonic missile and has largely armed the rebels with the missiles they now use. Adding a hypersonic missile to their arsenal could pose an even more formidable challenge to the air defense systems employed by America and its allies, including Israel.

“The group's missile forces successfully tested a missile capable of reaching speeds of up to Mach 8 and operating on solid fuel,” a military official close to the Houthis said, according to the RIA report. The Houthis “intend to begin manufacturing it for use in attacks in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, as well as against targets in Israel.”

Mach 8 is eight times the speed of sound.

Russia maintains close ties with Iran, relying on bomb-carrying Iranian drones to target Ukraine. Russian state media, particularly its Arabic-language services, have closely covered Yemen's years-long civil war, which pits the Iran-backed Houthis against the forces of Yemen's internationally-backed government and backed by a Saudi-led coalition.

Hypersonic weapons, which fly at speeds above Mach 5, could pose crucial challenges to missile defense systems due to their speed and maneuverability.

The danger of a hypersonic missile depends on its maneuverability. Ballistic missiles fly on a trajectory in which antimissile systems like the American-made Patriot can anticipate their trajectory and intercept them. The more irregular a missile's flight path, such as a hypersonic missile capable of changing direction, the more difficult it becomes to intercept.

China, like America, is believed to be seeking to acquire weapons. Russia claims to have already used them on the battlefield in Ukraine. However, speed and maneuverability do not guarantee that the missile will successfully hit a target. The Ukrainian Air Force said in May it had shot down a Russian Kinzhal hypersonic missile with a Patriot battery.

Red Sea Houthis

Supporters of the Houthis gather to attend a rally to protest U.S. airstrikes on Yemen and ongoing Israeli strikes in the Gaza Strip, in Sanaa, Yemen, Friday, March 8, 2024. (AP Photo/Osamah Abdulrahman)

In Yemen, Abdul Malik al-Houthi, the secret supreme leader of the Houthi rebels, boasted in late February of the rebels' arms efforts.

“We have surprises that the enemies do not expect at all,” he then warned.

A week ago, he also warned: “What’s coming is even bigger.”

“The enemy… will see the level of achievements of strategic importance that will place our country, in its capabilities, among the limited and numbered countries in this world,” al-Houthi said, without elaborating.

After seizing Yemen's capital Sanaa in 2014, the Houthis ransacked government arsenals, which contained Soviet-era Scud missiles and other weapons.

When the Saudi-led coalition entered the conflict in Yemen in 2015, the Houthis' arsenal came under increasing fire. Soon – and although Yemen does not have missile manufacturing infrastructure – new missiles fell into the hands of the rebels.

US and allies down at least 28 Iran-backed Houthi drones

Iran has long denied arming the Houthis, probably due to a year-old arms embargo imposed by the United Nations on the rebels. However, the United States and its allies have seized several shipments of weapons destined for rebels in Middle Eastern waters. Arms experts have also linked Houthi weapons seized on the battlefield to Iran.

Iran also now claims to have a hypersonic weapon. In June, Iran unveiled its Fattah missile, or “Conqueror” in Farsi, which it described as a hypersonic missile. He described another as being in development.

Iran's mission to the U.N. did not respond to a request for comment Thursday, nor did the U.S. Navy's Bahrain-based 5th Fleet, which patrols Middle East waterways.

The Israeli military – which has also come under fire from the Houthis since the war against Hamas erupted on October 7 when Hamas-led militants attacked Israel, killing 1,200 people and taking 250 others hostage – refused to comment.

The Houthis have attacked ships since November, saying they wanted to force Israel to end the war in Gaza, which has seen more than 31,000 Palestinians killed in the besieged strip. However, the ships under attack increasingly have little or no ties to Israel, the United States or other countries involved in the war.

But these assaults raised the profile of the Houthis, whose Zaydi people ruled a kingdom in Yemen for 1,000 years until 1962. Adding a new weapon increases that cachet and puts more pressure on Israel after the The failure of a ceasefire agreement in 1962. Gaza before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Earlier in March, a Houthi missile struck a commercial ship in the Gulf of Aden, killing three of its crew and forcing survivors to abandon ship. It was the Houthis' first deadly attack on ships.

Other recent Houthi actions include last month's attack on a fertilizer cargo ship, the Rubymar, which subsequently sank after drifting for several days, and the destruction of a US drone worth of several tens of millions of dollars.


A new suspected Houthi attack targeted a ship in the Gulf of Aden on Thursday, but missed the vessel and caused no damage, the British military's maritime commercial operations center in the United Kingdom said.

Fabian Hinz, a missile expert and researcher at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said he would not be surprised if Iran transferred a new hypersonic weapon to the Houthis. However, the question is how maneuverable such a weapon would be at hypersonic speeds and whether it could hit moving targets, such as ships in the Red Sea.

“I don’t rule out the possibility that the Houthis have a system that has some maneuverability to some extent,” Hinz said. “It is also possible for the Iranians to transfer new material for the Houthis to test.”


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