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.

12 Comments on "Yemen to Get UAVs From the US"

  1. Headline: US to sell F-14s to Iran

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

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


  3. Didn't Yemen ask some military types to LEAVE THE COUNTRY?

  4. jason.the.mcclain | September 27, 2012 at 10:12 pm | Reply

    What could go wrong?

  5. BAD IDEA.

    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.

  6. 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.

  7. Marcellus Hambrick | September 28, 2012 at 12:33 pm | Reply

    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!

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. Snake Oil Baron | October 1, 2012 at 10:52 pm | Reply

    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?

  11. 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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