Amid Yemen’s complex geopolitical landscape, this article provides a detailed analysis of four ballistic missiles developed by Houthi militants. From the dual-fuel operation of Al-Najm al-Thaqib to the innovative “baby-bottle” warhead design of Burkan-2H, Yemen’s popular ballistic missiles showcase distinct features and capabilities. Through an exploration of their specifications, this report aims to offer insights into the technological advancements demonstrated by Houthi rebels in the field of ballistic missiles.
Yemen’s Popular Ballistic Missiles
The Houthis in Yemen has developed a missile system called the Al-Najm al-Thaqib, also known as the “piercing star”. This missile operates on both liquid and solid fuel and has two stages. It was first revealed on May 26, 2015. The Houthis claim that these missiles can violate the blockade imposed by UN resolution 2216 by the Arab Coalition. The Al-Najm al-Thaqib 1 has a range of 45 km and carries a warhead with 50 kg of explosives, while the Al-Najm al-Thaqib 2 has a range of 75 km and carries a warhead with 75 kg of explosives.
The Burkan-2, known as the Volcano-2, serves as a mobile short-range ballistic missile utilized by the Houthis militants within Yemen. Its initial deployment took place in February 2017. Sporting a diameter of 0.88 meters, this missile relies upon a liquid propellant rocket engine. Possessing a remarkable operational range of more than 1,000 kilometres, the Burkan-2 sets itself apart with a distinctive “shuttlecock” payload configuration in contrast to the simpler conic warhead seen in the Burkan-1. Manufacturers of the Burkan-2 claimed it to possess an extended range of up to 1,000 km. Experts have identified its similarities to the Iranian Qiam 1/Scud-C, Iranian Shahab-2/Scud-C, or Scud-D missile models.
The Houthis in Yemen have developed the Qaher-1, a surface-to-surface missile with impressive capabilities. With a minimum range of 5 miles and a maximum effective range of approximately 19 miles, it can cover a significant distance. The missile’s maximum slant range extends up to 27 miles, allowing it to reach targets at various angles. Additionally, the Qaher-1 can soar to altitudes of up to 60,000 feet, showcasing its impressive vertical reach. Equipped with a 288-lb. blast-fragmentation warhead, it possesses destructive power. Weighing 4,850 lbs., the Qaher-1 can achieve speeds of Mach 3.5, making it a swift and formidable weapon. Originally based on the Soviet SA-2 missile, the Qaher-1 was locally developed by the Houthis to serve as a surface-to-surface missile. It operates in two stages, utilizing both liquid and solid fuel. The missile was publicly revealed in December 2015, demonstrating the Houthis’ advancements in military technology. Furthermore, the Houthis have also created a variant called the Qaher-M2, showcasing their ongoing development in missile capabilities.
The Houthis militants in Yemen utilize the Burkan-2H, also referred to as the Volcano-2H, as a mobile short-range ballistic missile. The initial launch of the Volcano H-2 took place in July 2017. This missile is connected to the Scud missile family. While the Burkan-2H retains the “shuttlecock” payload section, it differs from earlier variants by excluding the tail fins. Analysts believe it is based on either the Iranian Qiam 1/Scud-C, Iranian Shahab-2/Scud-C, or Scud-D missile. The warhead’s design resembles that of a “baby bottle,” allowing for adjustments in the centre of gravity centre of pressure to compensate for changes in payload weight caused by cone-shaped warheads. The first documented launch of the Burkan-2H occurred on July 22, 2017.