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The Anti-Aircraft Artillery Of Ansar Allah

December 20, 2022

As the year draws to a close there are strong indicators that the absence of major hostilities in Yemen will persist and, possibly, mark the war’s end. The resulting lull has been exploited by Ansar Allah, who dominate the capital Sana’a, and their opponents who are supported by the GCC and based in the south and southeast to pursue other less tactical goals. Since the United Nations brokered ceasefire that lasted from April to October paused all fighting the media arm of Ansar Allah broadened their online presence with multiple channels on various platforms, including a content-rich news website, and these outlets are used to amplify a victorious narrative. Although the Saudi-led coalition devastated Yemen and its infrastructure much of the country’s north is controlled by Ansar Allah.

The propaganda they released from August until September is still remarkable for its scale and variety as well as the thousands of troops involved. Where once Ansar Allah used dramatic video clips of its fighters conducting missions and chanting simplistic messages (“death to Israel” and “death to America” are common refrains) this year’s content favored spectacle on an epic scale. During parades in Sana’a and Hodeidah the armed forces rolled out their biggest and heaviest weapons that survived the war such as artillery pieces and main battle tanks. The fact these armaments are intact and functional is a testament to Ansar Allah’s close cooperation with the armed forces, who were once under the direct control of the late President Ali Abdullah Saleh, and the shortcomings of the Saudi-led aerial campaign against them.

Since Ansar Allah are keen to promote their legitimacy as a new regime the armed forces are crucial to this phase of their plans. While it’s true Iran committed to long-term support for them and even helped establish a military-industrial sector Ansar Allah’s air defense units have maintained a diverse arsenal that compares favorably to most countries. This is amid a backdrop of widespread poverty throughout Yemen after almost nine years of war. The category of weapons that fall under anti-aircraft artillery or “triple A” are substantial and judging by heavy machine guns alone, which are useful against low-flying aircraft like drones or helicopters, Ansar Allah’s forces have an abundance of these originating from many sources. They are listed below:

W85/Type 8512.7x108mmChina, Iranpickup truck
M2 Browning12.7x99mmUSApickup truck, Nimr Ajban
DShK12.7x108mmChina, Iran, USSRpickup truck
NPV12.7x108mmUSSRpickup truck
Kord12.7x108mmRussiapickup truck

Because of their isolation and economic troubles Ansar Allah have no access to the “global arms industry” and if they did, these are transacted by middlemen in the region. However, Iran’s willingness to build up their proxy means that the components for short and medium-range SAMs have reached Ansar Allah’s clandestine military-industrial sector. When evaluating the anti-aircraft artillery and then the anti-aircraft missiles they now possess it’s clear that a completely indigenous selection of anti-aircraft systems will soon emerge from Yemen.

Below are the large caliber anti-aircraft artillery Ansar Allah’s ground forces have shown during parades and other ceremonies this year. The selection reflects Yemen’s fractious history for the past six decades, when it was partitioned between a communist southern republic and an independent northern republic propped up by Gulf monarchies, and the unification era since the 1990s dominated by the late Pres. Saleh. There are at least three antiquated Soviet guns–the KS-19, S-60, and M1939–that Ansar Allah’s air defense units have restored and now employ in quantity. Added to this are more sophisticated but aging Oerlikon and Vulcan anti-aircraft cannons. The M167 VADS in particular are of the towed variant and were likely transferred to the former Yemen Arab Republic by a Gulf state. (It’s worth mentioning that Iran’s DIO manufactures the Oerlikon and the M167, among other types of anti-aircraft artillery, and establishing production lines for these in Yemen isn’t far-fetched.)

Ansar Allah’s air defense units do boast Soviet vintage SAMs (SA-2 Guideline and SA-7 Grail MANPADS) and, remarkably, a set of Iranian designed munitions that are exclusive to Yemen; this includes the peculiar “358” missile with a glass seeker warhead that is launched from an improvised mount.

M167 VADS20mmUSANOToyota Land Cruiser
Oerlikon35mmSwitzerland (?)YES
KPVT14.5mmUSSRNOToyota Land Cruiser
ZPU-2/414.5mmUSSRNOToyota Land Cruiser
ZSU-23-223mmUSSRYES + NOToyota Land Cruiser
M193937mmUSSRNOToyota Land Cruiser


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