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Houthis Write the Book on Asymmetrical Warfare

The Saudi Ministry of Defense displays drones and parts from missiles used in a refinery attack. PHOTO: Asia Times

The Houthis have emerged as a major thorn in the sides of the Saudi puppet regime. Beyond the threat of drone attacks on Saudi oil facilities, the Houthis are delivering lickings to Saudi ground forces in the Yemen theater. Houthis are razors, and Saudis use low-quality mercenaries.

Saudi vulnerability is evident well before any total war with Iran.

Houthi armed forces duly claimed responsibility for the Abqaiq oil disruption: “This operation is one of the largest operations carried out by our forces in the depth of Saudi Arabia and came after an accurate intelligence operation and advance monitoring and cooperation of honorable and free men within the Kingdom.”

Notice the key concept: “cooperation” from inside Saudi Arabia. This could include the whole spectrum, from Yemenis to eastern province Shiites. The Houthis also indicated that the attack on Aramco was made possible by on-the-ground informers.

“It came after an accurate intelligence operation, advance monitoring and cooperation from honourable and free people inside (Saudi),” the group’s military spokesman said.

Even more relevant is the fact that massive American hardware has been deployed in Saudi Arabia, inside out and outside in — satellites, AWACS, Patriot missiles, drones, battleships, jet fighters — and they didn’t see a thing before the attack, or certainly not in time. The sighting of three “loitering” drones by a Kuwaiti bird hunter arguably heading toward Saudi Arabia is being evoked as “evidence.” Cue the embarrassing picture of a drone swarm — wherever it came from — flying undisturbed for hours over Saudi territory.

Patriot missiles nearly worthless

Officials openly admit that now what matters is everything within the 1,500 km range of the Houthis’ new UAV-X drone: oil fields in Saudi Arabia, a still-under-construction nuclear power plant in the Emirates, and Dubai’s mega-airport.

Analysis of weapons captured or seen in Houthi images show a combination of home-grown designs, entire foreign items and components brought in from outside to upgrade existing stock, a January 2018 U.N. panel of experts report said.

Curiously, parts of the Houthi drone are either Israeli or are Israeli-copied.

Professor Mohammad Marandi from the University of Tehran, who has very close relations with the foreign ministry, is adamant: “It didn’t come from Iran. If it did, it would be very embarrassing for the Americans, showing they are unable to detect a large number of Iranian drones and missiles. That doesn’t make sense.”

Marandi additionally stresses that “Saudi air defenses are not equipped to defend the country from Yemen but from Iran.” He said, “The Yemenis have been striking against the Saudis, they are getting better and better, developing drone and missile technology for four and a half years, and this was a very soft target.”

Hardly mentioned in western media was another explosion inside Saudi Arabia on Sept. 29. A massive fire engulfed the train station at Jeddah, which links Makkah and Madina.

The American response to this is standard: sell more air defense weaponry to Saudi Arabia. U.S. personal will man the equipment. This is an open invitation for the Houthis and Iran to test these systems within the confines of asymmetrical warfare.

Just the pre-war jabs alone have gotten quite expensive for U.S. interests. It also proves how expensive American gadgetry is compared to the asymmetric tech of the Iranians.

It’s apparent that the folks on Iran’s war staff are well versed in Trumpian World Wide Wrestling Federation psychodrama and the perverse American cartoon-world psyche. Trump engaged in more threats and then back-peddled after Iran scored a coup, downing a $220 million MQ-4C high-tech drone.

Trump then claimed the Iranian action was unintentional, to which Iran promptly corrected that, stating that it was unapologetically intentional. Furthermore, Iran suggested it could have easily taken down a manned P-8 military aircraft spy plane ($256 million price tag) as well but deferred.

Iranian forces claimed they used a version of the Buk M1 road-mobile SAM to shoot down the drone. The IRGC also possesses Russian-made S-300 air-defense systems. Iran announced that it had a “domestically made” system with the same capabilities as the S-300. Now, Russia is testing the S-500 in Syria.

Iran has had 40 years to develop low-tech asymmetric warfare on a country that has wasted hundreds of billions of dollars on gadgetry.

Currently, U.S. cruise missiles are among the most expensive among single-use weapons, up to several million dollars apiece. One consequence of this is that its users face difficult choices in target allocation to avoid expending the missiles on targets of low value. For instance, during the 2001 strikes on Afghanistan, the U.S. attacked targets of very low monetary value with cruise missiles, which led many to question the efficiency of the weapon.

On April 6, 2017, 59 Tomahawk missiles were launched targeting Shayrat Airbase near Homs, in Syria. An independent bomb-damage assessment conducted by ImageSat International counted hits on 44 targets, with some targets being hit by more than one missile. These figures were determined using satellite images of the airbase 10 hours after the strike. However, the Russian defense ministry contends that the combat effectiveness of the attack was “extremely low.” Only 23 missiles hit the base, destroying six aircraft.

The head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps said the country’s development of ballistic missile technology had changed “the balance of power” in the region.

According to Salami, the Revolutionary Guards began tests using ballistic missiles as “a way to end the story of American aircraft carriers in the area” some 12 years ago.

The U.S. is likely to give its aircraft carriers a wide berth. The most effective weapon Iran has is the sea mine, which will choke off the Persian Gulf. Iran has 15,000 of these, and they have low-tech but effective price tags at $25,000 a pop. Any clearing of these mines will be risky and expensive. A number of U.S. ships have been damaged by mines in past regional conflicts.

Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) focuses more on smaller, fast-moving, heavily armed ships for an anti-access, area-denial role in the inner Persian Gulf against Iran’s neighbors and the U.S. The IRGCN also controls Iran’s shore-based anti-ship missiles.

In 2002, Marine Gen. Paul Van Riper led an Iran-like Red Team in a U.S. military exercise called The Millennium Challenge 2002. Van Riper launched a preemptive “swarm strike” against an approaching U.S. amphibious force, using a huge anti-ship cruise missile barrage that over-saturated their sophisticated Aegis air-defense systems. This was combined with a swarming attack by fast boats. His attack sank 16 ships and killed 20,000 Blue Team personnel.

Van Riper apparently hadn’t understood that he was meant to lose the war game in order to validate U.S. military doctrine, so the exercise was promptly rebooted to have the “right” outcome. My speculation is logical: The neocon psychopaths running the U.S. war biz have exposed themselves and, with supreme hubris, ignored Van Riper’s lessons on their obsolete doctrine. The general has said as much.

Van Riper discussed ultimatums and threats in his Nova interview. 

“What advantage is there for Red to wait for Blue to strike?” There was none. And that lead to the natural conclusion that if they’re coming, and we can’t persuade them not to diplomatically, then we will strike.

As I looked at an ultimatum that gave me less than 24 hours to respond to what literally was a surrender document, it was clear to me that there was no advantage in any of this diplomacy. I was very surprised that the Joint Forces Command personnel who had argued for using all of the elements of national power—the economic, the diplomatic, the political information—in some sort of coherent fashion, really came at Red with a blunt military instrument. So it was clear to me that this was not going to be negotiated, this was going to be a fight. And if it was going to be a fight, I was going to get in the first blow.

Indeed, besides the effective sea mines, the “Mad Max”-style tactics of barreling toward enemies at maximum speed in swarms of over-gunned open-topped motor vehicles may seem outlandish, but it has a certain logic for Iran. The small and affordable boats have low radar signatures; which, combined with speed, would significantly reduce their target’s reaction time. More importantly, should the U.S. approach Persian shores, their sheer numbers could overwhelm the expensive defensive systems on board U.S. warships.

A fight in someone else’s bathtub

From the IRGCN’s standpoint, and replicating Van Riper doctrine, the U.S. Navy’s advanced warships bristling with missiles are the Death Star, and the death blow is swarms of fast boats and maneuverable fighters capable overwhelming advanced defenses.

The Seraj-1 fast-attack craft was built on the “Bladerunner” design and is known for its stability, high mobility and strength. The newest version has large-caliber armaments, especially the 107-mm rocket launcher on the bridge and the DShKM mounted on the front. It can hit speeds of 90-100 knots (Seraj-2, Seraj-3) with a low silhouette. Iran has 30,000 of these equipped with short-range anti-ship missiles that approach at low altitude.

Iran also possesses thousands of small, hard-to-detect swarm drones that can land quick, hard punches. Expending high-tech cruise missiles and trying to hit these on the ground is a fine proposition and trade off for Iran.

Iran has imported Chinese C802 Silkworm missiles with a strike range of 120 miles, as well as reverse-engineered its own domestic Noor cruise missile, and it began working on a 200-mile range Ghadir ASCM. The width of the Persian Gulf ranges only between 35 to 212 miles.

7 Comments on Houthis Write the Book on Asymmetrical Warfare

  1. The F-22 was/is by most accounts a good plane, but was expensive to operate so it was discontinued (according to the USG). Totally hypocritical and beyond idiotic that they then built the f-35, which is similarly expensive but not half as capable. Not to mention that the unreliable VTOL system in the f-35 is essentially what Russia built in 1987 in their Yak-141 plane- not exactly state of the art- the USG possibly would’ve been better off buying and refurbishing old harrier jets LOL. A side note regarding other systems that are far from state of the art- the AEGIS system that the USN likes to brag about was proven useless TWICE in one exchange in 1987 when an Iraqi Mirage fighter landed two Exocet anti ship missles on the USS Stark frigate, killing 37 sailors. Everyone knows patriots and tomahawks are substandard, unless you’re targeting scud missles or weddings in Afghanistan. The fact is that the USG has the existing planes to be formidable against any foe- the F-15 and F-16 are to this day forces to be reckoned with. These airframes could be continually refined and improved, yet now parts shortages (seriously?!) are forcing the Air Force to dismantle some to keep others going. All of these ridiculous decisions just proves that the decision makers are part of the 5th column.

  2. The US leadership simply does not care. They have zero loyalty to the country and see themselves as separate and above the American people. Just look at how many higher-up military officers are dual Israeli-American citizens…something that in times past would have been see as a security threat. Looking at Trump, I doubt he has any of the tools necessary to free us from this part of the swamp.

  3. There are some who believe that these insane systems like the F-35 are just a way of laundering money and using it for ‘black-ops’ projects which is one of the reasons they continue to maintain the project even though on the surface it has been a complete disaster. I’d bet that millions of dollars don’t even find there way into the F-35 program at all and are funneled elsewhere!

  4. American weapons systems have become some of the most over-priced and unreliable the world has ever seen. A shining example of this is the US Navy’s new $13 billion USS Ford aircraft carrier (CVN-78): “It cost almost twice as much as the proven Nimitz class, yet it cannot reliably launch and recover aircraft. This occurred because the Navy incorporated experimental systems that were not proven after years of research, development, and testing. They were still in development when the Ford began construction, but Admirals decided to install them anyway and hope for the best. The Navy didn’t even begin launch tests with aircraft ashore using the new Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) until after construction of the Ford commenced!”
    https://www.g2mil.com/EMALS.htm

    Next on the list is the vaunted F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The “one size fits all” mentality of those in charge of weapons procurement for our armed forces is totally absurd. Instead of having a variety of lower cost aircraft that are very good at specialized missions, we now have one extremely expensive aircraft which is at best mediocre in all rolls it is supposed to fill:

    “The published $32,000-per-flying-hour cost is a made-up number; its real cost per flying hour will likely be closer to the $62,000 of the much less complex F-22. Its truly dismal sustained-sortie-generation rate of one sortie (mission) every three or four days means that, as is the case with our F-22 pilots, F-35 pilots will only get a fraction of the 30 to 40 hours of stick-time (actual flying time) per month necessary to gain and maintain fighter-combat mastery. The chunky F-35 will find itself facing faster, more agile, longer-range fighters carrying four times as many missiles. In going up against these planes — fighters such as the Russian SU-35S — our F-35 will find itself at a deadly disadvantage, despite its stealth.”
    https://www.nationalreview.com/2017/01/f-35-donald-trump-should-cancel-failed-f-35-fighter-jet-program/

    The above two examples showcase all that is wrong about our military’s vendor-dominated, crony-capitalist procurement system.

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