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Yemeni rebels attempt apparent ballistic missile saturation attack

29 March 2017
The rebels unveiled the Qaher-M2 ballistic missile soon after the attack on 28 March. Source: Al-Masirah

Yemen's rebels fired multiple ballistic missiles on 28 March in an apparent attempt to overwhelm the Patriot battery that defends the neighbouring Saudi cities of Abha and Khamis Mushayt.

Members of the a RSADF Patriot unit that has been deployed to protect the southern city of Jizan from Yemeni ballistic missile attacks. (Royal Saudi Air Defence Forces)Members of the a RSADF Patriot unit that has been deployed to protect the southern city of Jizan from Yemeni ballistic missile attacks. (Royal Saudi Air Defence Forces)

The official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported that four ballistic missiles were launched towards the cities from Yemen at 0630 h local time but were successfully intercepted by the Royal Saudi Air Defence Forces (RSADF) without causing any damage. It did not identify the ballistic missiles.

Amateur video footage was posted on social media sites showing at least six Patriot missiles being launched in quick succession, indicating the battery was simultaneously engaging multiple threats.

Pro-rebel media outlets reported that three medium-range ballistic missiles had hit King Khalid Air Base and inflicted heavy losses. The airbase is located in Khamis Mushayt and plays a major role in the military intervention that Saudi Arabia and its allies launched in Yemen two years ago.

The rebels subsequently said a new type of missile called the Qaher-M2 was used in the attack. The Al-Masirah TV channel released footage showing three missiles being launched nearly simultaneously, purportedly at King Khalid Air Base.

Like the Qaher-1, the new version is a surface-to-air missile (SAM) from the old S-75 (SA-2 'Guideline') air defence system that has been adapted for the surface-to-surface role. The rebels said the Qaher-M2 has a range of 400 km with a 350 kg warhead and is capable of landing within 5-10 m of its aim point. When it was unveiled in December 2015, the Qaher-1 was said to have a range of 300 km with a 200 kg warhead, the same weight as the one carried by the SAM.

The latest attack brought the number of Yemeni ballistic missiles that the SPA has reported to have been shot down by the RSADF since June 2015 to at least 28.

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