Yemen to Get UAVs From the US

Amid a series of controversial U.S. air strikes against high-level Al-Qaeda officials in the Arabian Peninsula, and renewed military cooperation with Yemen, officials in Sanaa are now expecting to get a supply of weaponry from the Pentagon, including four of their own UAVs.

An anonymous Yemeni defense official, who was not authorized to speak with the press, tells Aviation Week that Yemen is receiving four AeroVironment RQ-11 Raven UAVs. The 1.9-kg Raven is equipped with sensors for target acquisition, and infrared cameras capable of displaying persons carrying weapons.

“This type of technology would be very appropriate for Yemen’s frontline military units because it provides real-time intelligence from the battlefield to launch strikes while minimizing troops’ exposure to surprise attacks,” according to Aysh Awas, director of security and strategic studies at Sheba, a think tank here in the Yemeni capital.

The equipment marks a significant change in U.S. military cooperation with Yemen, which was suspended until earlier this year. Moreover, the U.S. Defense Department traditionally has kept a close hold on any UAV technologies, exporting them almost exclusively to close Western allies.

Last year, the U.S. provided 85 Ravens to Islamabad, Pakistan, another critical — albeit questionable — ally in the ongoing war against Al-Qaeda. Like Pakistan, however, many questions remain over the future of U.S.-Yemeni relations following the country’s tumultuous Arab Spring-inspired uprisings last year, which unseated 33-year President Ali Abdullah Saleh and transferred power to his deputy, Major Field Marshall Abd Rabu Mansur Hadi.

Victories aside, Awas claims Yemen’s elite, U.S.-funded and trained Counter Terrorism Unit (CTU) lacks vital support from the Yemeni air force (YAF). “Put simply, the fight against Al Qaeda in Yemen is a guerrilla war, and winning such wars requires special weapons and military equipment, including helicopters and transport aircrafts,” he says.

“Yemen’s air force does not have these weapons in required numbers to meet the needs of its 120 CTU operatives,” he adds. Indeed, YAF’s Cold War-era fleet comprises around 375 aircraft, of which only about 60% are operational due to years of neglect and mismanagement, according to a 2011 study by the Abaad Strategic Studies and Research Center here.

However, Washington has been attempting to develop air support for the CTU since 2006 under so-called Section 1206 authority, named after that part of the 2006 defense authorization act which allows training and equipping of foreign militaries for counterterrorism operations.

The Pentagon so far has spent more than $300 million of these funds on the YAF, CTU and Yemeni Special Operations Forces, making the impoverished country the largest overall recipient of Section 1206 funding to date.

A major spike in Section 1206 spending came in fiscal 2010 in reaction to the failed 2009 Christmas Day bombing of a Detroit-bound airliner. The bulk of the funds went to purchase four Huey II (UH-1H) helicopters and a CN-235-300M medium-range twin-turboprop transport aircraft.

Delivery was halted in early 2011, however, as the peaceful, youth-led uprisings of the Yemeni Arab Spring quickly devolved into a violent battle and forced the U.S. military to suspend its cooperation and evacuate personnel from the country.

Recent stability, however, has allowed Washington to ease some restrictions. “Given the election of a new president and Yemen’s critical security needs, earlier this year we gradually resumed our suspended security assistance for components of the Yemeni military that are engaged in the fight against Al-Qaeda,” says Navy Cmdr. Bill Speaks, a Pentagon representative.

In July, the U.S. secretaries of State and Defense approved $23.4 million to enhance the YAF’s fixed-wing capability to conduct counterterrorism operations by providing training and equipment, including two short-takeoff-and-landing aircraft and support to CASA CN-235 cargo/transport aircraft, he says.

-This article first appeared in Aerospace Daily & Defense Report.

  • Nadnerbus

    Headline: US to sell F-14s to Iran

    It was a bad idea then, its a bad idea now.

    • blight_

      Giving them TOWs was just making it worse…but for the Contras.

  • EW3

    Maybe they can use them to keep an eye on the 55 GITMO terrorists which may be getting released to Yemen.


  • jamesb

    Didn’t Yemen ask some military types to LEAVE THE COUNTRY?

  • jason.the.mcclain

    What could go wrong?

  • Mark


    I don’t even trust OBAMA to change the toilet paper in the Oval Office bathroom stall.

    November elections can’t come soon enough.

    Our Conspirator and Chief is a clear and present danger to this country.

    • Jerry

      If Romney gets elected, you’ll need more than toilet paper to clean up after his mess. He wants the US to get militarily involved in Syria and to resume the illegal torture that Obama halted. Seventeen of the same jerks who were W.s foreign policy advisors now serve in the same capacity for Romney. Wake up.

      • Mark

        If you think the Marxist Maggot in the White House is good for this country …

        You are the one who needs to WAKE UP.

  • Riceball

    It should be noted that we’re exactly giving the Yemenese military overly high tech equipment, the Raven is not much more than an RC plane with some fancy cameras on it, cameras that are readily available on the open market at that. Then there’s the Hueys and the transports, no big deal there either, it’s not like Hueys are all that advanced a couple of transports we can shoot down with ease if we had to.

    All in all I see nothing here that’s going to bite us if things Yemen go bad, just a bunch of support gear. It’s not like we’re selling them front line weapons systems like we sold F-14s to Iran. Even in the case of Iran they can’t do much with their Tomcats anymore because they haven’t had any service support or spare parts for them for a long time.

    • blight_

      They also shipped with export grade fire control systems.

      Many moons ago, a Grumman pilot who ferried Tomcats to Iran posted on DefTech and clarified a lot of questions I’d had about the F-14s that went to the Shah.

      Wonder where he is now…
      Edit: Leaving it to the readers to decide truthiness.
      “Dirt · 34 weeks ago
      All Tomcats had four wing positioning modes: Auto; Bomb; Manual and Emergency. The latter was used to place the wings in the Oversweep position (75 degrees) after flight. While in flight, the most common mode was to leave the wings in the Auto position and let the computer control the most efficient wing sweep angle for optimal flight configuration. The Manual mode was used mostly to place the wings all the way aft (68 degrees) to make the aircraft look really ****-hot. She was a dream to fly -a truly magical airplane!

      OBTW, I personally delivered two Tomcats to Iran in 1975-6. We flew them from the Grumman Plant in Long Island to Esfahan with a stop at Torrejon AFB in Madrid. Each leg was about 12 hours long. Flew back business class on Pan Am compliments of the Shah.

      blight · 34 weeks ago
      Did you ever fly Tomcats for the Navy? Curious on the difference between the Shah’s models and the Navy. I imagine the whole dust filter angle (like with the Kidds) would’ve been in play for aircraft as well, so there could have been some sort of modification to accomodate operations in Iran. However, the general consensus is that in terms of engines, electronics and weapons they were essentially identical to those flown by the Navy.
      Dirt · 33 weeks ago
      Yes, I have 2500 hours in F-14’s. Only Navy pilots ferried the the aircraft from the Grumman plant to Esfahan.

      The airframe and engines on the Iranian Tomcat were identical to those flown by the USN. The real magic of the Tomcat was in the software interface (called Tapes) with the weapons system. Iranian Tomcats got a “for export” tape which meant that it was vastly inferior to what we were using in the USN Toms. That meant their weapons, including the Phoenix missile, were also limited in their capability.


      • Nadnerbus

        That was actually pretty fascinating, thanks Blight.

    • tiger

      At least your on topic…..

  • Marcellus Hambrick

    Whether Yemen can use UAVs to find targets should not be the issue. The issue is does Yemen have the capability to take out an kill what they fund!

    • tiger

      More Will to do than capability.

  • Mark

    Your comment is LAUGHABLE.


    Obama is a TWO BIT WASTE OF SPACE.

    I wouldn’t give him a MOP JOB – He is an AFFIRMATIVE ACTION PUNK.

  • Pappa51

    I wish it wasn’t so, but we need to remember that a Muslim is a Muslim, is a Muslim. they may be from Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, or Yemen. Theses people are Muslim first. I wish that we could trust them to fight for Freedom and Human rights. . . But the Muslim will do what the Eman tells him to do first.
    Our Foreign Policy for decades has been to buy the leaders of these little Muslin countries and believe that we have the locality of their peoples. I know that not all Muslims believe as the radical Al-Qaeda types. But can we trust these “Allies” to stay true to the U.S. when all we do is try and Buy their hearts with Dollars. And their religious leaders have their eternal souls. Money does not buy that for long. Look at the unfortunate attacks in Afghanistan. We train, equip, feed, and give the lives of our finest youth. To me, the money is nothing. But the lives lost are far to costly. As long as we can trust and verify, I say we can spend Training, Equipment, and Dollars. If we can trust an “Allie”. I have no problem completely supporting them. When we can’t trust them. I say let them fend for themselves.
    I really didn’t want to get off on this; but it seemed like the right time.
    I don’t hate Muslims. We need to truly be able to Trust an “Allie”, to commit or troops. So as far as UAV’s or almost any other equipement they need; I say okay, until the day comes they try and use it on us.
    Nuff Said.

    • tiger

      Rather broad brush your swinging.

  • Snake Oil Baron

    How many of the groups the Yemeni state will use these on are really AQ and how many are simply guerrillas who oppose the Yemeni dictatorship. That nation has a long history of “accidentally” hosting and supporting terrorist training camps but now that some of their territory is in revolution we are supposed to believe that all the government’s enemies are AQ?

  • Blueaxe_101

    Its better to ask for UAVs and UCAVs from Pakistan and China respectively as they are cheaper to buy and support can be easily provided without any problem.

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