The Houthis announced on August 2 that their fighters had shot down an RQ-20 Puma drone in the northwestern Yemeni province of Hajjah.
The U.S.-made drone was reportedly shot down over the district of Harad, which is located on the border line with the southern Saudi province of Jizan.
Developed by AeroVironment, the RQ-20 Puma is a hand-launched unmanned aerial vehicle that was designed for surveillance and intelligence missions. The basic version of the drone has an endurance of 2 hours and a range of 15 km. A single unit costs around $250,000.
The RQ-20 shot down by the Houthis carried stickers with the insignia of the Royal Saudi Air Force and its well-known slogan “لله يحفظك” [May God Protect You].
The markings on the drone’s wreckage indicate that it was being operated by the Saudi military. However, the RQ-20 is not known to be in service with Saudi forces. There are no reports of the Kingdom purchasing this type of drones.
The RQ-20 Puma may have entered service with the Saudi military very recently. Another possibility is that the drone was being operated by U.S. Special Forces deployed on the Kingdom’s border with Yemen. This would explain why the Saudi insignia and motto were on stickers, not painted directly on the drone.
The U.S. is the main supporter of the Saudi-led coalition against the Houthis. Washington is not only selling weapons to coalition members, but also providing advice and intelligence.