Earlier today reports appeared that the Yemeni Missile Forces loyal to the Houthis movement launched a cruise missile on the Barakah nuclear power plant in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The video of the missile launch released by the Hezbollah media wing in Syria allowed to identify the cruise missile as “Soumar”, an Iranian-modified version of the Soviet-made Kh-55 cruise missile. Iran bought at least 12 of these advanced Soviet missiles from Ukraine after the collapse of the Soviet Union, according to several sources.
The Kh-55 cruise missile has the range of 2500km. It’s guided by an Inertial Navigation System (INS) that’s supported by the radar-based Terrain Contour Matching (TERCOM) system. These guidance systems allow the Kh-55 to maintain an altitude lower than 110 meters during its flight towards the target avoiding enemy radars. This makes the missile a lethal first strike weapon.
A rocket booster was added to the Iranian modified version of the Kh-55 cruise missile to launch the missile from ground instead of the air. The Iranian rocket booster on the Kh-55 uses grid fins – a similar concept was used by Russia on the ground launched version of the Klub cruise missile.
The released video showed that the Iranian booster uccessfully separated from the Kh-55 after the launch.
Local Yemeni sources confirmed that the cruise missile did not hit the target. It crashed in the area of Sin al-Aswad in the northern Yemeni province of al-Jawf. The crash reasons are still unclear, it was likely linked to a technical failure.
The launch of the Kh-55 cruise missile contributes to the two main versions:
- Iran is arming the Houthis with various types of missiles as Saudi Arabia has claimed multiple times;
- Iranian spepcial services or organizations linked to them are able to use Yemen as a foothold for its oprations in the region.
This attack will likely increase the political pressure on the Iranian missile program and on the Houthis in Yemen, especially that the missile was supposed to hit a nuclear power plant.