Houthis claim hypersonic missiles, threaten more attacks beyond Red Sea

Houthi officials gather around surface-to-air missiles on display, during an exhibition in an unidentified location of Yemen. (Photo/Reuters Archive)

Yemen's Houthis claim to have a new hypersonic missile in their arsenal, Russia's state media has reported, potentially raising the stakes in their attacks on shipping in the Red Sea and surrounding waterways against the backdrop of Israel's war on Gaza.

The report by the state-run RIA Novosti news agency cited an unidentified official but provided no evidence for the claim. It comes as Moscow maintains an aggressively counter-Western foreign policy amid its war with Ukraine.

However, the Houthis have for weeks hinted about “surprises” they plan for the battles at sea to counter the United States and its allies, which have so far been able to down any missile or bomb-carrying drone that comes near their warships in Mideast waters.

On Thursday, Abdul Malik al Houthi, the Houthis’ secretive supreme leader, said the group will start hitting ships heading toward the Cape of Good Hope in Africa's southern tip.

Until now, Houthis have largely struck ships heading into the Red Sea toward the Suez Canal, and such an escalation would target the longer, alternative route used by some vessels. It remains unclear how they would carry any possible assault out.

Meanwhile, Iran and the US reportedly held indirect talks in Oman, the first in months amid their long-simmering tensions over Tehran's rapidly advancing nuclear programme and attacks by its proxies.

Iran, the Houthis' main supporter, claims to have a hypersonic missile and has reportedly armed the group with the missiles they now use.

“The group’s missile forces have successfully tested a missile that is capable of reaching speeds of up to Mach 8 and runs on solid fuel," a military official close to the Houthis said, according to the RIA report.

The Houthis “intend to begin manufacturing it for use during attacks in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, as well as against targets in Israel.”

Mach 8 is eight times the speed of sound.

Israeli ship blockade

Hypersonic weapons, which fly at speeds higher than Mach 5, could pose crucial challenges to missile defence systems because of their speed and manoeuvrability.

Ballistic missiles fly on a trajectory in which anti-missile systems like the US-made Patriot can anticipate their path and intercept them. The more irregular the missile’s flight path, such as a hypersonic missile with the ability to change directions, the more difficult it becomes to intercept.

China is believed to be pursuing the weapons, as is America. Russia claims it has already used them.

In Yemen, Abdul Malik al Houthi boasted that his forces “continue to expand the effectiveness and scope of our operations to areas and locations the enemy never expects.”

He said they would prevent ships “connected to the Israeli enemy even crossing the Indian Ocean ... heading toward the Cape of Good Hope.”

The Houthis have attacked ships since November, saying they want to force Israel to end its offensive in Gaza.

The Houthis have also fired missiles toward Israel, though they have largely fallen short or been intercepted.

Fabian Hinz, a missile expert and research fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said he wouldn’t be surprised if Iran transferred a new, hypersonic weapon to the Houthis.

However, the question is how manoeuvrable such a weapon would be at hypersonic speeds and whether it could hit moving targets, like ships in the Red Sea.

“I wouldn’t exclude the possibility that the Houthis have some system that has some manoeuvring capability to some extent,” Hinz said. “It is also possible for the Iranians to transfer new stuff for the Houthis to test it.”


Source: TRT