US CENTCOM reveals Iran’s role in smuggling weapons, Iran has been exporting drone technology to Yemen’s Houthi rebels over the last decade and similar components may link Iran to drone attacks in eight countries.
A report by Conflict Armament Research on Wednesday provided a rare window into the extent of Houthi use of drones and how the group revolutionized Iran’s drones. It also helped map out a much wider pattern of drone components used from Sudan to Afghanistan. The US also revealed new details Wednesday on a shipment of Iranian weapons seized in November last year. The new details appear to link Iran directly to the attack on Saudi Arabia in September 2019.
Let’s begin in Yemen where the Houthi rebels have revolutionized drone warfare, using drones against a Saudi Arabia-backed alliance. They’ve crashed them into radars and air defense technology, and attacked airports and military parades and infrastructure. CAR research has previously “concluded that the Qasef-1 UAV is not of indigenous design and construction, but rather manufactured in Iran and supplied in batches to Houthi forces in Yemen.”
In 2019 the Houthis showed off a number of drones, or UAVs, that they had been using. At least eight were being made and used. This included the Hudhed-1, Raqib, Rased, and Saamad 1 and the Qasef-1, Qasef 2k, Sammad 2 and Sammad 3. The first four are reconnaissance drones. The Houthis had taken the Iranian Ababil-T drone and turned it into the Qasef-1. The Houthis, who are relatively poor, were able to produce sophisticated drones. CAR concluded that the markings on electronic components point to “industrial production and quality control processes. Some internal components match those found in Iranian-made UAVs.”
Yet the Houthis acquired very complex technology. The Sammad drone that appeared in 2018 eventually reached a range of up to 1,500km. “The Sammad has the same exterior cast and print color as the imported Qasef-1,” the report says. UAE forces captured one of the drones in June 2018. The components look like those in a Qasef-1. How do the Sammad engines reach Yemen. According to the study they came from a German company, perhaps via Greece. This would have been an illegal export and the report makes it clear that the discovery of the German-made engines in drones in Yemen does not mean the original manufacturer is responsible.
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