New ballistic, cruise and loitering missiles were shown by the Houthis in the recent military parade in Sanaa, Yemen. We reviewed the new cruise missiles, ballistic missiles, and naval attack weapons in three recent posts. Parallel to the development of ballistic missiles, Iran is pursuing various types of aerial weapons based on unmanned aerial systems technologies.

Shahed 131 and 136 are two models that have recently captured media attention. Still, these simple and rudimentary delta-winged ‘flying bombs’ are only one type of a wide family of loitering weapons that Iran has used to hit targets far beyond its borders, dating back to the attack on Saudi oil fields in 2019.

Among many types of loitering missiles and attack drones displayed was the local version of the Iranian Shahed 136 – the Wa’id, new models of Samad and Qhasef, loitering missiles, Rased weaponized mini-drones, VTOL variant of Mersad-2, and the Masir hexacopter weaponized drone that was also demonstrated in formation flight.

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Wa’id, the Houthi version of Iran’s Shahed 136 drone missile.

As a simple weapon that requires minimal know-how and components for assembly, Shahed 136 is rapidly becoming a popular export item. Among the first customers are The Houthis in Yemen, designated Wa’id, Russia (where it is called Geran-1). Tajikistan is also planning to assemble Iranian strike drones.

These missiles employ simple but effective techniques to perform such long-range missions. Using a Rocket Assisted Take Off (RATO) and powered by an internal combustion engine (ICE) and flown by an autopilot using a commercial global satellite navigation system (GNSS) and inertial measurement systems, these drones fly a preprogrammed path to hit a target as far as 1000 km (some sources indicate up to 2,500 km, but these ranges haven’t been verified). Unlike the Israeli Harop, Shahid 136 doesn’t have a payload for target identification and terminal homing, as it relies only on GNSS for the target data and does not require an active control channel to control the drone. This makes this weapon relatively immune to electronic attack, yet it is vulnerable to GPS spoofing. Such countermeasures may divert the missile from its intended target but wouldn’t prevent it from hitting other targets in an urban area.

Samad-1 guided missile drone. Note the RATO launch tube below each drone.
Qasef-2 loitering weapons equipped with camera and remote control.

Apart from the Wa’id, the Houthis displayed other propeller-driven missiles, including models having integrated electro-optical guidance. Among these is the Qasef 2, an electrically powered drone having a cruciform tail and overhead wing, using a built-in camera and two-way radio control for observation, targeting, and attack. A slightly larger version of the attack UAV is Samad, which comes in a V-tail configuration. Samad also uses RATO and ICE propulsion and, with a larger platform and larger wingspan provides much longer endurance, range, and payload weight. It comes with a GNSS-only guided variant or GNSS plus EO version providing higher precision and the possibility to pursue moving targets on land and at sea.

Samad-2 loitering weapon uses ICE for long endurance and a camera for reconnaissance and terminal targeting.

Target acquisition can be provided to the loitering weapon’s controllers using the Mersad-2 vertical takeoff and landing drones. These drones are based on reverse engineering the American Scan Eagle drones the Iranians captured several years ago. The fuselage bears some lineage to the Scan Eagle, but the wings are not swept as the American design. The drone uses an ICE as the main propulsion. Adding four electrical motors on the tail booms provide VTOL capability and enables the drone to deploy from unprepared sites.

Mersad-2 VTOL recce drone
Qasef-2K loitering missile is the Houthi version of the Iranian Ababil-2. These weapons carry a warhead weighing about 50 kg and have a range of 150-200 km; used in attacks against Saudi Arabia. These attack drones were also transferred to Hezbollah (named Mirsad-1) in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza.
The Rased is an electrically powered miniature rail-launched remotely controlled drone that has a built-in chin-mounted camera. These pictures show they can carry a small bomb, which is dropped by remote control.
Masir is a six-rotor drone equipped with a payload carrying assembly that can carry multiple bombs. Various payloads are seen on this parade display.

The Houthis have also displayed the Al-Masir Hexarotor multirotor drone. This aerial vehicle is geared to carry different payloads, including various mortar bombs and grenades that can be selectively dropped upon command by the operator. During the parade in Sanaa, five Al- Masir drones performed formation flights over the crowd, with the drones carrying what looked like bombs or dummy bombs. Three of those drones flew in a close formation, demonstrating what could be an automated formation control (swarm?).

a formation flight of five Masir drones, the upper photo shows a close formation of three drones, and the lower shows a dynamic formation change in flight.


Related posts in this report: