How Did Yemen's Houthis Obtain Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUV)?

Sheba Intelligence | 2024-02-21 01:30 PM UTC


The U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) admitted for the first time on February 17 that the Ansar Allah (Houthi) group, which is listed as a terrorist organization, had attacked the American forces with an Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (UUV).


 Sheba Intelligence tracked how, where, and when the Houthis obtained the UUV.


Drone submarines: underwater robots


In recent years, America, Russia, China, and other countries have been active in manufacturing and developing unmanned submarines that can operate underwater without human command to collect data, monitor, clear sea mines, and other simple tasks.


Underwater robots may seem tactical, but now they have the capacity for strategic action, as these submarines can become an effective weapon of war, capable of hindering a country's maritime economy or imposing a naval blockade. Also, unmanned submarines can deploy mines in the waters without endangering the lives of the country's naval forces.




International competition for unmanned submarines


In February 2019, the U.S. Navy agreed to contracts worth $274 million with Boeing to build five Orca-class submarines capable of operating independently on missions of up to 3 months.


American media also predicted that Russia would introduce unmanned nuclear submarines into its weapons arsenal before any other country.





In 2020, reports revealed that Beijing deployed a fleet of small, underwater Chinese unmanned submarines in the Indian Ocean to collect data and carry out other missions. These submarines, called Sea Wing, are a type of unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) that can sail for months nonstop.


Britain, France, Canada, and Australia had unmanned submarines for intelligence and research purposes, clearing sea mines, and other tasks. Presently, there are countries, including Turkey and Iran, that have the potential to manufacture them because they manufacture drones.



Americans confirm Houthis own unmanned submarines


American reports say that the unmanned underwater vessel (unmanned underwater vessel) or small unmanned submarines were smuggled from Iran to the Houthi group in pieces that reached Houthi-controlled coasts.


On February 15, the U.S. Central Forces intercepted an Iranian arms shipment that was bound for  Houthis. The ships contained components of an unmanned underwater vessel.


The U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) said the U.S. Coast Guard Sentinel-class fast-response ship USCGC Clarence Sutphin Jr (WPC 1147), assigned to the US Naval Forces Central Command, identified on January 28 the ship's location and a boarding team discovered more than 200 packages that contained medium-range ballistic missile components, explosives, unmanned underwater/surface vehicle (UUV/USV) components, military-grade communication and network equipment, anti-tank guided missile launcher assemblies, and other military components.


On February 18, U.S. Central Command conducted five strikes against three mobile anti-ship cruise missiles, one unmanned underwater vessel (UUV), and one unmanned surface vessel (USV) in Iranian-backed Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen. That was the first observed Houthi employment of a UUV since attacks began on October 23, according to CENTCOM.




A picture of the equipment that was seized by the American forces in the Arabian Sea on January 28, 2024. It was on its way to the Houthis, and it contained a propulsion fan mounted on the back of an unmanned underwater vessel



Iran arms Houthis with unmanned submarines:



On December 3, 2023, the Iranian Navy unveiled an unmanned underwater unmanned vehicle (UUV) named (Nazir-5) in an exhibition of the Iranian Navy's achievements. Nazir-5 is capable of detecting and disabling sea mines.



The Iranian unmanned submarine (Nazir-5) has a composite propeller that looks like the propeller that the U.S. forces seized in the Arabian Sea on January 28, 2023.



On January 28, 2024, during the Iranian President's visit to Imam Hussein University, the specifications of the "Nazir 5" remotely piloted submarine, which the university had manufactured, were revealed. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Naval Force had previously displayed the same unmanned submarine on several occasions without mentioning any information about it. Iranians said that this submarine had passed several experimental stages in Iranian waters.





Characteristics of the Houthi submarines:


The Iranian Nav revealed the unmanned submarine, Nazir5, after an escalation between Israel and the Tehran-backed forces in the region, including the Houthi group.


The Houthis began attacking Eilat in Israel in October 2023 and seized an Israeli-linked ship called the Galaxy Leader in November 2023 in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza, which Israel has bombed and invaded since October last year. This matter accelerated Iran's announcement that it possesses unmanned submarines in preparation for any naval battle.


So, if the Iranians delivered the unmanned submarine to the Houthis, which is known as the Nazir-5, then the specifications and characteristics of such a submarine are as follows:


• The length of the submarine is not less than (10) meters, and its diameter is within (1) meter.

• The possibility of equipping it with weapons systems and torpedoes.

• It can carry out various tasks such as surveillance, mine clearance, and sinking ships from long distances.

• It has a great ability to hide from monitoring and sensor devices.

• It can operate at a depth of up to 200 meters underwater and for 24 continuous navigation hours.



Therefore, Iran's attempt to deliver that submarine to the Houthis has raised the concern of the American forces, which began striking the Houthi submarines. Such type of weapon will be a powerful and smart tool that can harm American and British ships in the Red Sea.



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