The long-range cruise missile named “Storm Shadow,” the most powerful missile in the Royal Air Force (RAF) inventory, is among a large number of British-supplied, air-launched weapons being used by the Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) in its campaign to oust Houthi rebels that took over the government of Yemen in January 2015.
Since April 2015, the RSAF has led a relentless bombing campaign against Yemeni forces and their militant allies along with support from eight other Arab nations as part of the Saudi Arabian-led War in Yemen.
The Yemeni Civil War from 2004 to 2015 ended with the Houthis toppling the legitimate government of Yemen, which was forced into exile to Saudi Arabia. Intervention by Saudi Arabia and its allies followed.
The British are playing a key role in the RSAF air campaign in Yemen and have deployed military personnel in the command and control center responsible for Saudi-led air strikes on Yemen. The British also have access to targets lists and provide missiles and bombs for the RSAF.
The United States also supplies bombs and other weapons to the RSAF and its coalition partners. It provides intelligence and logistical support; aerial refueling and search-and-rescue for downed coalition pilots.
RSAF airstrikes in Yemen are mostly carried out by its Panavia Tornado IDS strike fighters capable of mounting an enormous array of smart bombs and air-to-ground missiles. RSAF operates 80 Tornadoes.
The use of the Storm Shadow by RSAF Tornadoes against Houthi Yemeni forces was only recently detailed to the British Parliament by Secretary of State for Defense Sir Michael Fallon. Fallon said the RSAF has deployed Storm Shadow and other British-supplied air launched weapons since the Saudi-led intervention began.
Other British-supplied precision-guided weapons being used by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen are the Dual Mode Brimstone (a fire-and-forget air-to surface missile); ALARM (Air Launched Anti-Radiation Missile used against radars); the U.S.-made Paveway IV laser guided bombs and the PGM500 guided bombs (called Hakim 2 by the United Arab Emirates).
By far, the most impressive British weapon used by the Saudis is Storm Shadow, a British, French and Italian air-launched cruise missile manufactured by MBDA. The fire-and-forget missile is five meters in length and weighs 1,500 kg, of which 450 kg is its multi-stage warhead.
It has a range of 450 km and after launch, its wings deploy and the weapon navigates to the target at low level using terrain profile matching and an integrated Global Positioning System.
Publication of the types of British air-launched precision-guided weapons used in the Yemeni war comes at a time of growing international condemnation of the number of civilian deaths caused by the Saudi-led coalition’s air strikes.