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Are Houthi rebel drones really good enough to have crippled Saudi oil facility?

PortandTerminal.com, September 16, 2019

A strike on a critical Saudi Arabian oil facility is claimed by the Houthi rebels in Yemen. But the US says Iran is behind it. Do the Houthi rebels really have the technological capability to have done it?

RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA – Last weekend Saudi Arabia’s oil production was cut by half after a swarm of explosive drones struck at the heart of the kingdom’s oil industry and set the world’s biggest crude-processing plant ablaze. Oil prices spiked up 20% after the attack and once again the world is expecting an imminent US/Iran hot war in the middle east.

Houthi rebel spokesman Yahya Saree says that “upcoming operations will expand more”

A spokesperson for the Houthi rebels quickly claimed responsibility for the attacks saying that they had successfully carried out a “large-scale” operation with 10 drones targeting Saudi Aramco oil facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais. Yahya Saree, the Houthi rebel spokesman, went on to say that the attack is “one of the largest executed by our forces” in Saudi Arabia” claiming it came after “thorough intelligence and monitoring” as well as coordination with locals, threatening: “upcoming operations will expand more”

Oddly though, the United States’ Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo came out almost as quickly to blame Iran for the attacks instead, dismissing the possibility that the attacks could have come from Yemen. Why so quickly and why so dismissively of Yemen’s Houthi rebel’s technological capabilities?

To make matters even more confusing, shortly after news of the attacks broke, the Associated Press (AP) ran an article that gave Saudia Arabia’s state-owned oil company Aramco’s account of what happened. The Saudi’s blamed drones for the attack.

At around 4:00 a.m. local time, Saudi Aramco reported that it was dealing with fires at their Abqaiq facility, and Khurais facility in Saudi Arabia. It was believed that the attack was done by multiple drones, as machine gun firing could be heard on the recordings of the adhan (Islamic call to prayer) near the facilities as the guards there fired to try to bring down the drones. (Associated Press)

Who actually carried out the attacks still remains unclear. Certainly, Iran has the technological capability to have done it (for the record, they say that they didn’t). But could the Houthi rebels actually have pulled it off as they claim to have?

Do the Houthi rebels in Yemen really have the drone capability to have pulled it off?

Apparently yes.

According to the United Nation’s Security Council, the Houthi rebels now possess the drone technology to have carried out such a sophisticated attack.

The UN report analysed in detail recent Houthi rebel drone attacks, the technology involved and looked at possible sources of component suppliers who may be helping the Houthis out.

The most distinctive feature of the UAV-X is its significantly increased endurance and range.

The Houthi rebels have are using a drone called the UAV-X which the UN Security Council reports as having a range well within the striking range of Saudi Arabia.

The Houthi rebels are using a drone called the UAV-X that has a top range of 900 miles (1,500 km)

Here’s what the UN Security Council had to say:

The most distinctive feature of the UAV-X is its significantly increased endurance and range. Powered by the Chinese-made DLE 170 or the German-made 3W110i B2 engine, with a top speed of between 200 km/h and 250 km/h, the unmanned aerial vehicle may have a maximum range of between 1,200 km and 1,500 km, depending on wind conditions. It would give credence to the claims by the Houthis that they have the capability to hit targets such as Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Dubai. The Panel received information that one UAV-X had crashed within 30 km of Riyadh after having run out of fuel.

Why does it matter?

Global oil refineries like the Saudi Abqaiq facility, the world’s largest, are no longer safe.

The real news this weekend is the message that the successful attack on Saudi’s oil refineries sent to the world. Even your most guarded, valuable infrastructure is vulnerable to our attacks. “The drones are getting better and we’re getting better at attacking you with drones” is the real message sent this weekend by the Houthis, Iranians or whomever Mike Pompeo identifies as the culprit.


Download the full UN Security Council report (January 25, 2019) “Final report of the Panel of Experts on Yemen”

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