The amazing military capabilities of the Houthis

(To Andrea Gaspardo)

While most of the world's attention continues to be focused on the vicissitudes of the Russo-Ukrainian War, there are numerous areas that constitute as many theaters of conflicts, even very bloody ones, which have been literally forgotten both by the elites and by the general Italian public, such as if wars could cease to exist simply by "ignoring them". One of these conflicts is the Yemeni conflict, in reality fluctuating for decades and dramatically internationalized after the unfortunate decision taken by Saudi Arabia to lead a coalition of (mostly Arab) states which since 2015 have been actively trying to suppress the revolution carried out by the political-religious movement of the Houthi.

Even though it has been 8 years since the start of the Saudi military intervention and in the meantime at least half a million Yemenis have died in the deafening international silence, Saudi Arabia and its allies both small and large have proved completely unable to eradicate a movement that it has much deeper foundations than originally anticipated both by Riyadh and by most Western and non-Western analysts.

In all these years there has been a very serious error of judgment in assuming that with the Saudis entering the field with outstretched leg, most of the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council and following the other states that directly or indirectly supported the actions of the Royal House of Saud, the Houthis (for a long time considered as nothing more than a "band of shepherds") would have dispersed like leaves in the wind.

Instead, against all odds, and even considering everything that has happened in this period of time, the Coalition forces have never even managed to get close to the Yemeni capital Sana'a which remains firmly in the hands of the Houthis who, in the meantime, managed partly thanks to force, partly thanks to persuasion and partly due to the simple lack of alternatives to co-opt the residual Yemeni state structures that they themselves had greatly contributed to demolish in 2014 and to establish themselves as an irreplaceable element of what in the eyes of a large part of the country's population it has become a war for national survival and identity.

What is interesting to note here was the ability of the Houthis to progressively but inexorably transform themselves from an irregular guerrilla force (“an army of ragamuffins” to use a term abused by several Israeli military analysts) to a conventional army capable of carrying out limited but gradually more incisive actions in the local theater of operations.

This evolution was possible in part thanks to the support provided to the Houthis by their Iranian partners (speaking of an "alliance" in this case is very improper!) and in part as a result of the bloody lessons that the conflict has inevitably taught.

The latest example of the progressive growth of the Houthis in their conventional warfare capabilities has been provided with the publication of several videos including the following ( relating to their large-scale exercise in central Yemen in an area of ​​60 square kilometers located not far from the capital. It is necessary here to put our hands forward and immediately state that this and other audiovisual material produced by the Houthi information center is far from exhaustive, has a purely propaganda spirit and is directed above all to a domestic audience. However, even videos of this nature can hold interesting surprises for an in-depth view by an attentive observer! The first of these is already found in the opening seconds, during which a Mi-171Sh, highly advanced export variant of the Mi-8AMTSh produced for the Russian Armed Forces.

In reality it is not the first time that the Houthis demonstrate the ability to use gods combat helicopters given that on at least two other occasions they have already used a Mi-24/35 to attack Saudi-led Coalition positions, even if the attack helicopter in question was then destroyed by the Saudi Air Force's response action. However, it is impressive to see that, after 8 years of war, there are still aircraft in Yemen under the control of the Houthis that have not yet been definitively out of action by the actions of the Coalition air forces and that in the meantime the Houthis are inexorably learning to use them .

Another element that makes a certain impression is thesoldiers' equipment. For years the Houthi guerrillas have appeared on the battlefields dressed and equipped in an improvised and very rudimentary way while now the same men wear regular military uniforms, tactical vests with cartridge cases, helmets and backpacks. The soldiers then no longer move only on foot but have learned to use both light and heavy military vehicles (we note armored vehicles and BMP infantry fighting vehicles) and assault the fake enemy positions in actions that see the use of weapons combined, as happens in all countries where military doctrines are now mature.

Then there is theuse of drones (even civilians) capable of both carrying out reconnaissance operations and releasing munitions in a sufficiently precise manner (from this point of view the Russo-Ukrainian War set the standard!).

But the most interesting detail, at least for myself, was the appearance of a tank T-80BV, immediately recognizable by the presence of the SG-1000 gas turbine exhaust located in the rear part of the vehicle.

I confess openly that I did not expect this! Before the events of 2014-2015, Yemen was equipped with a considerable armored force which included, as more modern means, no less than a hundred T-80BV and T-80U tanks purchased in previous years by Russia and Belarus , however it was believed that they were now long gone, destroyed in the chaos of war. And even if their destiny had not been certain destruction, at least it was believed that the Houthis were not able to operate such sophisticated and in need of maintenance vehicles as tanks equipped with a gas turbine. And instead, even in this case the Houthis were able to surprise us, once again validating the prudent adage pronounced on the occasion of the Iran-Iraq War that: “Western analysts seem to consistently underestimate the Third World's ability to handle advanced technology”.

We'll see in the future what other surprises the not so much "Yemeni sheepherders" have in store for us.

Frames: الإعلام الحربي اليمني