The Houthi movement in Yemen has released footage that appears to depict an MQ-9 Reaper drone being struck by an anti-air missile a day after announcing the feat.
On Tuesday, Houthi military spokesperson Brig. Gen. Yahya Sare’e announced that the Air Defenses had struck an “American MQ9 drone” with a missile of undisclosed make and model, the Houthi official news outlet Al-Masirah reported.
According to Sare’e, the drone was operating over Mar’ib Governorate and had attacked Houthi forces in several of the province’s districts.
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On Wednesday, video purporting to be of the shootdown was posted by a popular open-source research account on Twitter. In the moments before the missile strikes the unmanned aerial vehicle, it deploys some kind of projectile that appears to be a missile, but could also have been a defensive flare.
However, it seems likely the Houthis have made an understandable error and confused a General Atomics RQ-9 Reaper with a China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) CH-4.
The two drones look extremely similar, distinguishable only by the CH-4’s lack of a ventral fin below its V-shaped tail, which the grainy video does not seem to show.
China sold the Saudis two CH-4s in 2014 after the US refused to export the Reaper, and in 2017 signed a deal to build a drone factory in the kingdom.
That said, the Houthis have being fooled by CH-4s and MQ-9s before; in December, they announced the downing of a Saudi CH-4, for example.
A UAV purported to be a US MQ-9 Reaper fires a projectile before being hit by a Houthi anti-air missile. It’s unclear if the drone fired its own weapon or a defensive flare.
Neither the US nor Saudi Arabia have commented about the claims.
If it’s truly an American Reaper, this would be the fourth US drone the Houthis have claimed to shoot down. In 2019, the Pentagon attempted to claim that because the Houthis had downed a drone using a Soviet-built 2K12 Kub anti-air missile system, this was proof the Iranians were arming the Houthis and turning the war in Yemen into a proxy war.
However, as Sputnik reported, the 2K12 [NATO reporting name SA-6 Gainful] is a widely exported weapon, with the Yemeni Armed Forces having been one of the former Soviet Union’s customers.