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Saudi Air Defense Stops Most Houthi Strikes

F-22Raptor

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DUBAI: Saudi Arabia has come under intensive attacks by ballistic missiles and explosive-laden drones for the past few weeks in an apparent attempt by the Iranian-backed Houthi militias in Yemen to force the kingdom to concede to their demands to end the five-year-long Yemeni War. However, robust Saudi air defenses have negated these attacks by intercepting the majority of the incoming projectiles.

“The accomplishments of the Royal Saudi Air Defense Forces (RSADF) are impressive… The RSADF is now the global leader in (ballistic) missile intercepts,” said David DesRoches, a professor at the Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies at National Defense University in Washington DC.

DesRoches pointed out that the RSADF “has in effect modernized itself while at war. There is no evidence that any Houthi ballistic missile fired into the interior of Saudi Arabia. This is an amazing achievement.”


In a press briefing in the Saudi capital Riyadh on March 8 the spokesman for the Saudi-led Arab coalition fighting the Houthis in Yemen, Col. Turki al-Malki, said the coalition has destroyed most of the 350 ballistic missiles and 550 explosive-laden drones fired by the Houthis. “No country in the world has been able to confront these drones the way Saudi Arabia has,” he stressed.

Saudi Arabia has been leading an Arab coalition to restore the internationally-recognized Yemeni government that was deposed by the Houthi militias that took control of large parts of the country in 2015.

The staggering number of ballistic missiles and drones fired at Saudi Arabia does place it on the top of the list of countries targeted by such weapons.


“Most missiles and drones hit nothing, even if not intercepted. Most drones have tiny payloads that are not designed to causes personnel losses,” said Michael Knights, a Senior Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “We also let a lot of missiles and rockets go because we can tell them are not hitting anything.”

The Saudi Air Force has been using the Patriot PAC-3 as its main ballistic missiles defense system. It is also equipped with a variety of short- and medium-range surface-to-air missiles such as the Improved Hawk, Shahine and Mistral.

The Royal Saudi Air Force is the only one in the Middle East that operates the Boeing E-3A Sentry commonly known as AWACS, which along with 2 SAAB-2000 Erieye planes, helps provide a strong early warning capability that is crucial for an effective air defense.


Separate inspection teams by the United Nations and other Western powers have concluded that all the ballistic missiles and drones fired by the Houthis against Saudi Arabia came from Iran. It is believed that most of them were smuggled in pieces to Yemen and were assembled by the Houthi militias.

Al-Maliki pointed out that the ballistic missiles and armed drones that have been launched by the Houthi militias in Yemen were manufactured by Iran.

The British Foreign Secretary commented on the Houthi attacks on the kingdom by saying on March 29 that “It’s unacceptable that Iranian missiles are being used against Saudi Arabia and we wish to see an end to that.”

Iranian officials have denied supplying the Houthis with missiles and drones.

The most damaging attack against Saudi oil facilities was in 2019 when swarms of drones and cruise missiles fired from the northwest hit the Abqaiq oil fields in northern Saudi Arabia.

DesRoches said that the Iranians have been developing their tactics in the missile and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia, and have been looking for “a seam in the air coverage” to exploit it.

“The Saudis are adapting to this by shifting their sensor packages, relocating and enhancing their interceptors, and it appears to be they are conducting better vulnerability analysis of their defended asset list to ensure they protect things that are truly critical,” DesRoches said.

Kinghts agreed: “Saudi air defense against ballistic missiles has been decent and improving.”

He noted that attempts by the Houthis to hit targets deep into Saudi Arabia have failed because “drones are proving susceptible to interception when they travel long distances.”

However, the Yemen conflict has proved to be a costly war of attrition to the Saudis who are forced to allocate a lot of much needed funds to consolidate their air defense capabilities, in addition to the military operations in Yemen.

“The Saudi Patriot missiles cost about $4.3M each – they fire at least two at each incoming target. The price of each Iranian missile cost a fraction of that,” DesRoches said.

“Ultimately, the fact that so many missiles are being intercepted in the Kingdom means that the Kingdom has been unsuccessful in deterring those who would attack it” Des Roches added. “It is very difficult to determine and interdict missile points of launch.”

Saudi Arabia has announced on March 23 an initiative to reach a cease fire in Yemen to pave the way for efforts by the United Nations to broker a political settlement to the Yemeni conflict. However, the Houthi militia leaders have rejected the initiative and pressed on with their missile and drone attacks that seem to have intensified ever since President Joe Biden’s administration removed on February 12 the group from list of terrorist organizations.

https://breakingdefense.com/2021/03...5.1456458170.1617047011-1845125104.1615314775
 

Abid123

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Should not be surprising. Saudi Arabia has the third largest defence budget in the world. Only China and the USA spend more on defence.
 

Ahmet Pasha

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DUBAI: Saudi Arabia has come under intensive attacks by ballistic missiles and explosive-laden drones for the past few weeks in an apparent attempt by the Iranian-backed Houthi militias in Yemen to force the kingdom to concede to their demands to end the five-year-long Yemeni War. However, robust Saudi air defenses have negated these attacks by intercepting the majority of the incoming projectiles.

“The accomplishments of the Royal Saudi Air Defense Forces (RSADF) are impressive… The RSADF is now the global leader in (ballistic) missile intercepts,” said David DesRoches, a professor at the Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies at National Defense University in Washington DC.

DesRoches pointed out that the RSADF “has in effect modernized itself while at war. There is no evidence that any Houthi ballistic missile fired into the interior of Saudi Arabia. This is an amazing achievement.”


In a press briefing in the Saudi capital Riyadh on March 8 the spokesman for the Saudi-led Arab coalition fighting the Houthis in Yemen, Col. Turki al-Malki, said the coalition has destroyed most of the 350 ballistic missiles and 550 explosive-laden drones fired by the Houthis. “No country in the world has been able to confront these drones the way Saudi Arabia has,” he stressed.

Saudi Arabia has been leading an Arab coalition to restore the internationally-recognized Yemeni government that was deposed by the Houthi militias that took control of large parts of the country in 2015.

The staggering number of ballistic missiles and drones fired at Saudi Arabia does place it on the top of the list of countries targeted by such weapons.


“Most missiles and drones hit nothing, even if not intercepted. Most drones have tiny payloads that are not designed to causes personnel losses,” said Michael Knights, a Senior Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “We also let a lot of missiles and rockets go because we can tell them are not hitting anything.”

The Saudi Air Force has been using the Patriot PAC-3 as its main ballistic missiles defense system. It is also equipped with a variety of short- and medium-range surface-to-air missiles such as the Improved Hawk, Shahine and Mistral.

The Royal Saudi Air Force is the only one in the Middle East that operates the Boeing E-3A Sentry commonly known as AWACS, which along with 2 SAAB-2000 Erieye planes, helps provide a strong early warning capability that is crucial for an effective air defense.


Separate inspection teams by the United Nations and other Western powers have concluded that all the ballistic missiles and drones fired by the Houthis against Saudi Arabia came from Iran. It is believed that most of them were smuggled in pieces to Yemen and were assembled by the Houthi militias.

Al-Maliki pointed out that the ballistic missiles and armed drones that have been launched by the Houthi militias in Yemen were manufactured by Iran.

The British Foreign Secretary commented on the Houthi attacks on the kingdom by saying on March 29 that “It’s unacceptable that Iranian missiles are being used against Saudi Arabia and we wish to see an end to that.”

Iranian officials have denied supplying the Houthis with missiles and drones.

The most damaging attack against Saudi oil facilities was in 2019 when swarms of drones and cruise missiles fired from the northwest hit the Abqaiq oil fields in northern Saudi Arabia.

DesRoches said that the Iranians have been developing their tactics in the missile and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia, and have been looking for “a seam in the air coverage” to exploit it.

“The Saudis are adapting to this by shifting their sensor packages, relocating and enhancing their interceptors, and it appears to be they are conducting better vulnerability analysis of their defended asset list to ensure they protect things that are truly critical,” DesRoches said.

Kinghts agreed: “Saudi air defense against ballistic missiles has been decent and improving.”

He noted that attempts by the Houthis to hit targets deep into Saudi Arabia have failed because “drones are proving susceptible to interception when they travel long distances.”

However, the Yemen conflict has proved to be a costly war of attrition to the Saudis who are forced to allocate a lot of much needed funds to consolidate their air defense capabilities, in addition to the military operations in Yemen.

“The Saudi Patriot missiles cost about $4.3M each – they fire at least two at each incoming target. The price of each Iranian missile cost a fraction of that,” DesRoches said.

“Ultimately, the fact that so many missiles are being intercepted in the Kingdom means that the Kingdom has been unsuccessful in deterring those who would attack it” Des Roches added. “It is very difficult to determine and interdict missile points of launch.”

Saudi Arabia has announced on March 23 an initiative to reach a cease fire in Yemen to pave the way for efforts by the United Nations to broker a political settlement to the Yemeni conflict. However, the Houthi militia leaders have rejected the initiative and pressed on with their missile and drone attacks that seem to have intensified ever since President Joe Biden’s administration removed on February 12 the group from list of terrorist organizations.

https://breakingdefense.com/2021/03...5.1456458170.1617047011-1845125104.1615314775
Where were these amazing defences when Aramco the heart of Saudi economy was directly targeted and bombed?
 

Zapper

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Should not be surprising. Saudi Arabia has the third largest defence budget in the world. Only China and the USA spend more on defence.
It really depends on what you prioritize with your defence budget. Israel's budget is only around $20bn and it's Iron Dome still stop most of the rockets fired along Gaza
 

Abid123

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It really depends on what you prioritize with your defence budget. Israel's budget is only around $20bn and it's Iron Dome still stop most of the rockets fired along Gaza
I get your point. But I would not call 20 billion dollars "only". It is small compared to Saudi Arabia but to most countries it would not be small. Also keep in mind that the rockets Hamas fires are cheap homemade rockets. So would not be hard to stop them. Meanwhile the Houthis fire better missiles that are supplied from Iran. Also Israel is 100x times smaller than Saudi meaning easier to stop incoming missiles.
 

Stryker1982

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The issue with this is that "Most strikes" is not enough against a militia group. Not even a serious nation with a serious military budget.

One cannot afford to not intercept a target, if one of the poorest nations on the planet can orchestrate a strike that is intercepted 99% of the time, that one percent is sufficient to disrupt or destroy the target and that's all that is required.

Their have been more intercepts than strikes but we've seen a more than a handful that have struck a couple oil facilities and a palace using low cost methods like drones.

Saudis will continue to get better as they acquire more experience, but this may be counter-acted by increasing missile quality over time.
 

Hack-Hook

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well let just say Syrian air defense also stop most of Israeli strikes against Syria.
Israeli air defense also stop most of rockets fired toward Israel.

the key point here is "most" and the price to intercept those attacks
 

The SC

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Where were these amazing defences when Aramco the heart of Saudi economy was directly targeted and bombed?
Just debris on fire hit the Aramco facility..They caused a small fire that was extinguished in less than an hour.. so the operations of the facility were never jeopardized per se..
 

Ahmet Pasha

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Just debris on fire hit the Aramco facility..They caused a small fire that was extinguished in less than an hour.. so the operations of the facility were never jeopardized per se..
Oh come on dude the world economy threw a fit for weeks. Habibis, Israelis and Americans were also chasing their tails for months.
 

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