U.S. Forces Foil Weapon Smuggling to Yemen Amid Rising Escalations in Red Sea

Sheba Intelligence | 2024-01-16 01:32 PM UTC


The U.S. Navy intercepted a dhow transporting advanced weapons to the Ansar Allah (Houthi) group in Yemen, the U.S. Central Command said on Tuesday.

The interception happened on January 11, 2024, during a flag verification, and the smuggled quantity of weapons was meant to provide support to the ongoing Houthi campaign against international merchant shipping.

The Central Command said, "U.S. Navy SEALs operating from USS LEWIS B PULLER (ESB 3), supported by helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), executed a complex boarding of the dhow near the coast of Somalia in international waters of the Arabian Sea, seizing Iranian-made ballistic missile and cruise missiles components."

A military expert told Sheba Intelligence that the weapon shipment captured by the U.S. Navy confirms that the buildup of the Houthi group's missile force is Iranian, particularly the medium-range and short-range ballistic missiles.

The picture shows a missile that is very close to the Iranian Paveh 351 missile, which is an anti-ship missile and is called by the Houthis QUDS Z-0. Or it may be an Iranian Ghadir missile, which the Houthis call Sayyad.

According to the military expert,  the length of the missile shown in the picture indicates that it is closer to the Ghadir missile.


The military expert explained that the picture also shows engines for medium-range ballistic missiles that operate on liquid fuel, and they are installed on Shihab 3, 2, 1 missiles, which are copies of the Korean Hwasong missiles that were developed from the Scud B and Scud C missiles. The Houthis call such missiles Burkan 1, and Burkan 2. 

The expert added, "The picture confirms that what the Houthis are doing is not developing missiles, but rather only preparing liquid fuel or preparing fuel briquettes."


The seized items include propulsion, guidance, and warheads for Houthi medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBMs), anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs), and air defense-related components, according to the statement.

It added, "This is the first seizure of lethal, Iranian-supplied advanced conventional weapons (ACW) to the Houthis since the beginning of Houthi attacks against merchant ships in November 2023."

The Navy SEALs lost at sea after a ship-boarding operation went awry near Somalia last week were dispatched to look for suspected Iranian weapons bound for militants in Yemen, which has become a staging ground for repeated attacks on commercial vessels in the Red Sea, two U.S. officials familiar with the incident said Sunday.

On Thursday, two American soldiers went missing in the Gulf of Aden after they were preparing to board the ship in rough seas when one of them slipped from a ladder. The second sailor dove in to help but did not survive, two U.S. officials said on the condition of anonymity.

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Sunday those two soldiers were part of the U.S. military's ongoing work to disrupt Iran's shipment of weapons to Yemen's Houthi group.

Houthi military spokesperson on Monday said the navy units of the Yemeni Armed Forces fired "a number of appropriate naval missiles," directly hitting the U.S.-owned vessel, Gibraltar Eagle.

He also vowed that "a response to the American and British attacks is inevitably coming, and that any new attack will not remain without response and punishment."

According to Saree, the Houthi attacks will continue to target vessels directly or indirectly servicing Israel as long as the war on Gaza continues.

The Presidential Leadership Council on Monday reaffirmed Yemen's support for the Palestinians and their right to establish their independent sovereign state. However, the Council warned the Houthi group of the consequences of continuing to exploit the Palestinian issue and expand the conflict in the region.

The Council indicated that the Houthi escalation will drag Yemen into a military confrontation that has nothing to do with supporting the Palestinian people.

Meanwhile, a military court affiliated with the Yemeni army in Marib province on Monday charged 550 Houthi leaders with spying for Iran, the crime of armed coup, and committing war crimes.