Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 30 May 2020

Houthi drone power increasing with Iranian help: the key takeaways

Recent years have seen the Houthis develop technology capable of flying further and hitting harder

A gyroscope recovered from a Qasef-1 drone. Conflict Armament Research via AP
A gyroscope recovered from a Qasef-1 drone. Conflict Armament Research via AP

A report by Conflict Armament Research detailed how the capabilities of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles used by Yemen's Houthis have increased with the help of Iran. Here are some key takeaways.

Read full report: Yemen's Houthis developing increasingly lethal drones with support of Iran

Iran has long been accused of passing Qasef-1 drones such as the one pictured above to Houthi rebels. Conflict Armament Research
Iran has long been accused of passing Qasef-1 drones such as the one pictured above to Houthi rebels. Conflict Armament Research

Qasef 1

CAR described the Qasef 1 as a “first-generation, rudimentary UAV” used by the Houthis. Its design, dimensions and capabilities are “virtually identical” to the Iranian-manufactured Ababil-T.

With a maximum 200 kilometre range, its targets are restricted to the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. Initially, it targeted the coalition’s surface-to-air missiles, but more recently the Qasef 1 had been loaded with improved explosives, as well as nuts and bolts, that are detonated above “soft targets” including when military officials are below.

A notable use of this tactic was in January 2019 when a drone was set off, killing six during a military parade at Al Anad Base.

The fuselage and wings of the Qasef-1 UAVs bear printed and written serial numbers, which correspond to handwritten serial numbers applied to various internal components,” CAR said.

“The serial numbers, some of which are consecutive, indicate that the UAVs were manufactured on the same production line and that an external source supplied them to Houthi forces for further assembly.”

A gyroscope recovered from a Qasef-1 drone. Conflict Armament Research via AP
A gyroscope recovered from a Qasef-1 drone. Conflict Armament Research via AP

Vertical gyroscopes

A vertical gyroscope helps stabilise the drone, such as the Qasef 1, making it easier to fly and capable of withstanding strong winds.

According to the report, the model V10 vertical gyroscopes attached to the Qasef 1s have serial numbers “close in proximity” to those found in an Iranian-made drone that was recovered by ISIS in Iraq.

“The gyroscopes appear to be of the same make - yet not the same model - as a unit that Saudi authorities recovered following the aerial attack on the Aramco oil facility in Abqaiq, Saudi Arabia, on 14 September 2019,” CAR said.

According to experts that CAR spoke to, these vertical gyroscopes have not been seen in any UAVs apart from those developed by Iran.

Saudi Arabia said the missiles and drones used in an attack on Aramco facilities on September 14, 2019 were made in Iran. AP 
Saudi Arabia said the missiles and drones used in an attack on Aramco facilities on September 14, 2019 were made in Iran. AP 

More powerful drones

Since mid-2018, the Houthis have begun using more advanced drones from the Sammad family, which is believed to have three variants and capable of flying well over a 1,000 kilometres. Several of its features resemble that of the Qasef 1 but its engine is more powerful and has a larger warhead.

According to the UN Panel of Experts on Yemen, the engine comes from a shipment of 21 engines that German company 3W-Modellmotoren Weinhold GmbH sold to a Green company in June 2015.

“The Panel further identified that the engines were resupplied to a company based in Iran, in violation of German law,” CAR said.

CAR said that, in September 2019, it documented a Sammad-patterned drone that UAE forces captured on Yemen’s west coast months earlier.

Updated: February 20, 2020 08:44 AM

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