Report Claims Houthis Have Hypersonic Missiles

( – Could Yemen’s Houthi rebels be armed with deadly new hypersonic anti-ship missiles? That’s what one media channel is claiming. If the report is true, the threat to shipping in the Middle East has just increased dramatically. However, ship owners might not need to panic just yet.

Since last October, the Houthi movement, an Iran-backed extremist group that has seized control of about half of Yemen, has been using missiles, drones, and speedboats to attack merchant shipping in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. The Houthis claim this is to stop weapon supplies to Israel, although, in reality, they’re just launching random attacks. US and British warships in the region have intercepted dozens of drones and missiles already. But do the Houthis have something new?

Russian news agency RIA-Novosti recently claimed that the Houthis have successfully tested a hypersonic missile, which they plan to use against shipping as well as for attacks on Israel. Hypersonic missiles travel at over Mach 5, which can make them harder to intercept. According to RIA-Novosti, the Houthi missile is capable of Mach 8.

If this report is true, the missiles would be a serious threat to cargo ships, but they wouldn’t really be much of a threat to Western warships. Both the AEGIS-guided standard missiles on US destroyers and the Royal Navy’s Sea Viper system can shoot down hypersonic weapons heading for the warship.

However, the speed of a hypersonic missile could make it very difficult to intercept if it was aimed at another ship. Standard missiles fly at Mach 3.5 and Sea Viper at Mach 4, so neither can even catch a Mach 8 missile that isn’t flying toward the launcher. If the Houthis can launch these weapons, our destroyers will be able to defend themselves — but they won’t be able to defend other ships unless they’re very close to them.

Do the Houthis really have this capability, though? It’s not impossible — Iran supplies them with weapons, and Tehran recently claimed to have developed two different hypersonic missiles — but Iran has a habit of announcing high-tech weapons that don’t actually exist.

The source of the report is also suspicious. RIA-Novosti is controlled by the Russian government, and Russia and Iran are increasingly close allies. Many attacks on Ukrainian cities are being carried out with Iranian kamikaze drones. It’s very plausible that RIA-Novosti is just pumping out pro-Iran propaganda, and the Houthi hypersonic missiles are just another hoax.

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