In the late hours of March 14, the Yemeni Air Defense Force [loyal to the Houthis] announced that it had shoot down an MQ-1C Gray Eagle unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UAV) over the Yemeni capital of Sanaa.
“The UCAV was shoot down with a suitable missile,” a source in the Yemeni Air Defense Force told the Houthis media wing.
The MQ-1C, which entered service in 2009, has an endurance of 25 hours. The UCAV can be armed with four AGM-114 Hellfire or four GBU-44/B Viper Strike guided glide bombs for combat missions. The U.S. Army and intelligence are the only known operators of this UCAV.
The Houthis media wing released on May 15 a video confirming that the UCAV was shoot down with a surface-to-air missile. The Houthis possess several types of man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADS). However, large drones like the Grey Eagle are usually shot down with modified air-to-air missiles, such as Soviet-made, infrared-guided R-27T and R-73E.
Last March, the Yemeni Air Defense Force shoot down an MQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) over Sanaa with a similar missile. The Predator was developed into the more modern Gray Eagle.
The downing of the Grey Eagle UCAV proves that the capabilities of the Houthis’ air defense force are growing. This will pose a major challenge not only to the Saudi-led coalition, but also to its main backer, the U.S. Army.