Houthi UAVs set big Saudi refinery alight. al-jazeere, etc.


"Saudi Arabia is shutting down half of its oil production after drones attacked the world’s largest oil processing facility in the kingdom, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The closure will impact almost five million barrels of crude production a day, about 5% of the world’s daily oil production, the WSJ reported, citing sources familiar with the matter.

Early Saturday, an oilfield operated by Saudi Aramco, the state-owned oil giant, was attacked by a number of drones, which sparked a huge fire at a processor crucial to global energy supplies.

Yemen’s Houthi rebels have claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was one of their largest attacks ever inside the kingdom, the WSJ reported.

“We promise the Saudi regime that our future operations will expand and be more painful as long as its aggression and siege continue,” a Houthi spokesman said. The attack deployed 10 drones, the Houthis said."  CNBC


Watch the al-jazeera video linked below. 

Some time ago, an "expert" on toy UAVs expressed an opinion on my FB page that the Houthis must be trucking these drones up to within a few miles of the target before flying them.  This attack would seem to exclude this possibility.  The question of the size of the payload also is intriguing because of the amount of damage inflicted, and then there is the matter of the guidance system. 

This is a game changer.  pl



This entry was posted in Saudi Arabia, weapons, Yemen. Bookmark the permalink.

118 Responses to Houthi UAVs set big Saudi refinery alight. al-jazeere, etc.

  1. JerseyJeffersonian says:

    Well, as Theodore Roosevelt was reported to say, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog”

  2. Fred says:

    There are some commercial cargo drones in operation, or at least development, which could do this. Commercial guidance system acroding to Jane’s. A 2,000lb payload, which could be lowered to extend the range. The one in the video doesn’t look like much more than a cardboard box to give areodynamics to the frame and cargo. For a one-way trip something like this would be easy. The WWI aircraft weren’t much more than this.
    I don’t see why a static launch from a balloon wouldn’t work as well as the helicopter shown in the video.

  3. walrus says:

    I would think GPS/GLONASS/GALILEO is accurate enough for delivery to within about a 30 feet radius circle. The electronics are nothing special these days.
    Launching would probably be via a rail with some sort of rocket booster maybe powered by an rpg motor or some sort of slow burn propellant (maybe from arty or mortar rounds?).
    My WAG is that the speed of this thing is maybe no more than 100 – 150 mph and it’s powered by a piston engine burning maybe 10 litres per hour (another WAG) for 6 hours that means about 100 lbs of fuel (60 x .72 x 2.2). if the motor weighs about 25 lb, and allow about the same for a fibreglass airframe, we get a weight less warhead of about 150 – 170 lb for a still air range of about 600 statute miles. Now add about 50 lb of explosive as a payload with some form of impact fuse and we have about a 220lb drone with a range of 600 miles that is too small and slow to be noticed.
    I can’t imagine any precision guidance/armour piercing sophisticated munitions are used, all you would need for a fire is a lucky round to hit one of CBI’s finest tanks and boom – 10 million litres of flaming product.
    I would imagine our intelligence services have a much better idea than my guess and would be concerned that other “entrepreneurs “ don’t copy the Houthi.
    Our colleague, “Nuff said” suggested the ingredients were smuggled in and the Houthi build them themselves. That suggests they are building and launching in salvos as fast as they can.
    It would be one heck of a SF mission to find their factory or factories, and stop this.

  4. ISL says:

    Dear Colonel, Indeed, and a black swan event.
    The global economy was already teetering – $100 bbl likely will accelerate the business cycle (inverted yield curve) into recession (or worse – interest rate are zero/negative leaving central banks no good tools, debt is at new highs, too big to fail banks are bigger, etc., etc. etc.).
    Can Saudi Arabia change course – admit they lost and sue for peace – without a (likely time-consuming) leadership change? MBS was quite effective at neutralizing potential opponents.

  5. Lyttennburgh says:

    Mashallah! Top level humiliation for Yahoodi Arabia’s munafiqun

  6. turcopolier says:

    Pompey claims that Iran launched the strike It is about 200 to 300 mile to the Gulf from Buraydah and another 100 miles across the Gulf.

  7. Bobo says:

    Well we certainly will see if the crude oil we have been storing in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve for the past 30+ years has value in the weeks to come. Should make a good profit for the USA and help ease the situation.
    Expect that Aramco will be back to full capacity in less than 30 days.

  8. turcopolier says:

    Yes, until the next Yemeni attacks.

  9. Jack says:

    Yes, Sir.
    Pompeus claims Iran dunnit. And Ms. Lindsey wants US retaliation. And Trump wants “Mutual Defense” treaty with Bibi.
    “Mutual Defense” like Israel has the capacity and inclination to come to our defense in case of attack by a nuclear power? Lol! What continues to amaze is how there’s no push back from those with responsibility for US national interest. Just like so few calling out the CCP Fifth Column.

  10. Mk-ec says:

    I wonder how much of this is actually Iran enforcing it’s statement ” if we can’t export our oil no one in the region will” https://www.reuters.com/article/us-oil-iran-idUSKBN1O30MI
    The region has seen the rise of Iran in the past years – with augmented presence in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen. How much of this stems directly from myopic western policies or the rise of one the region’s historical powers I don’t know. French President Emmanuel Macron recently gave a speech on the decline of the West and the need to restore relations with Russia, briefly touching on the first point.
    How will Saudi Arabia fare in a multipolar world?

  11. notlurking says:

    Payback time for trying bomb Yemen to the stone age….the Houthies have shown to be very stubborn and efficient….time for the KSA to find a seat at the peace table pronto….

  12. Vegetius says:

    Wonder how the Borg will respond when young whites begin demonstrating as such against America’s half-century folly in the Middle East, from the right.
    For that matter, I wonder how the elders, particularly those born from 1928 to 1958, will respond when their grandchildren and great-grandchildren begin marching as such against a stolen past and a dark future.

  13. Unhinged Citizen says:

    Oh no! My poor portfolio of unloved Canadian oil sands and US Permian Basin producers!

  14. Eric Newhill says:

    Maybe a kamikaze drone with a shape charge in the nose?
    The explosion has to be able to penetrate the thick skin of the oil storage tanks.

  15. turcopolier says:

    Eric Newhill
    How does it have the range and guidance needed?

  16. turcopolier says:

    your meaning is unclear.

  17. turcopolier says:

    Having lived in both places I would like to see the Zaidi Yemenis beat the Saudis like a rented mule.

  18. Factotum says:

    Cui bono – Russian oil prices

  19. Factotum says:

    Saudi’s need Israeli’s Iron Dome. Why haven’t they installed it yet? CYA takes on new meaning.

  20. Fred says:

    The global economy? China’s is teetering due to Trump finally standing up for America and imposing tariffs. Germany’s is catching the flu because they are also linked heavily to China. We are a long way from $100/barrel oil thanks also to President Trump. I for one am glad of both taking on China and cutting regulations. On a related note that tanker full of Iranian oil is now worth a lot more than it was yesterday.

  21. Fred says:

    So having failed to get the US to intervene in Syria after repeated false flag attacks on civilians the poor helpless Saudis need their best friend Trump to attack Iran, much to the delight of Bibi and MBS. Dead Yemeni children couldn’t get it done but a refinery attack showing the complete lack of defenses the kingdom can field after four years of combat in Yemen and it’s on to Moscow Tehran! How on God’s green earth is that in our national interest?

  22. Judging by photos of wreckage from SA, the weapon seems to be the Yemeni built Quds cruise missile. It has a solid rocket booster and a small jet engine reportedly with a range of 900 miles. The engine is a Yemeni copy of the TJ100 turbojet made by PBS Group of the Czech Republic. PBS denies they sent any of their engines to Yemen. The Quds is a slightly smaller version of the Iranian Ya Ali. That engine is probably something my brother and father could design and build in my brother’s home machine shop. They both built jet engines for a living.

  23. Aristophones says:

    Exactly, assuming this was not a lucky hit, what is the defense for this weapon? If not a one-off hit, this is bad news for all of the “advanced” aggressors in the area.

  24. Aristophones says:

    Might the Pantsir missile system be an effective defense for these type missiles?

  25. Tidewater says:

    I disagree with your misplaced optimism. I think this is a bad situation. These are still warning shots. There is just no telling how vulnerable the Saudi oil fields are. I think there is a possibility of crippling blows against ARAMCO and the Saudi regime.
    Consider Qurayyah. This is a basically unknown place on the Saudi Al Hasa coast on the Persian Gulf tucked in behind Bahrain. If you went east from here you’d go across some water and then the southern part of Bahrain, and if further east, then across Qatar. Qurayyah IPP is a large gas and fuel oil combined cycle power station there. It is one of the largest power stations in the world, at 3927MW. Its purpose, at least in part, is to supply power to the largest seawater treatment plant in the world, along with many pump stations and a number of water injection facilities. Any consideration of the Khurais oil field (which has just taken a hit) has to include Qurayyah. The two places are linked by pipeline over a distance of about forty miles. The pipeline carries treated seawater, and this water is used in the process of ‘water injection’, a technology that has become essential to the successful functioning of the Khurais and other Saudi oil fields. Wikipedia has a brief discussion on ‘Water Injection.’ You cannot just pump seawater down into the deep trapped reservoirs of an oil field without treating it. This treatment is complex. You have to get algae and shells out of it. There has to be filtering through sand. There has to be deoxygenation. There is a reverse osmosis plant here as well. The cleansed saline water goes through a 48″ diameter seawater injection pipe and is moved along and down into the Khurais oil field by powerful gas turbine water injection pumps. This injected water is essential to maintaining the pressure of the oil field, and it gives the field longer life. It can also be used to increase oil production, by pumping water down and forcing oil towards a central point where it can be extracted.
    To get to my point, which I guess is pretty obvious. What if something happens to this vast complex at Qurayyah and Khurais when it’s all linked together, if one part doesn’t work? That processed water has to get to the Khurais oil field. Or the field has to be shut down. If this entire oil field has to be shut down one could speculate that there could be a domino effect, first on the Saudi oil industry, then potentially a world oil crisis being triggered.

  26. Tidewater says:

    Wow! The Houthi’s have a jet engine now? They weren’t supposed to have that. That is news. Thanks for that information, TTG.

  27. walrus says:

    Oil storage tanks like those made by Chicago Bridge and Iron, aren’t very thick or armoured at all. I seem to remember maybe 3/4’’ plate in the walls and the roof is much lighter again.

  28. walrus says:

    If Iran launched the strike then they are dead stupid. I would imagine KSA has radar good enough to paint something coming from seaward – a clear horizon, etc. In addition, assuming the bad guys weren’t devious enough to plot a curved course, crashed drones and wreckage may tell from which direction the drones came from.

  29. That little TJ100 turbojet engine is extremely fuel efficient and can power a small acrobatic manned plane. Guidance can be GPS with preprogrammed flight path augmented with non-GPS guidance systems such as demonstrated in ths small hand launched model aircraft. The shit’s on, good buddy.

  30. blue peacock says:

    Both the Chinese and German economy were weakening well before all the trade disputes hit. The tariffs in real dollar amounts is small relative to the size of trade. US imports + exports is around $5.6 trillion. We’ve tariffed a few hundred billion.
    I think many view the dispute with China as essentially trade. The reality is that the CCP has been at war with the US for some decades. Follow the story as it unfolds of one of the highest ranking Canadian intelligence official arrested last week. CCP fingerprints all over it.

  31. blue peacock says:

    They’re probably scaring the shit out of the Clown Prince right now. He may even contemplate what if they target his royal palace.

  32. Thirdeye says:

    Highly destructive drones can be built for as little as two grand a pop. The technology is common, the components are easy to smuggle, and the facilities required for assembly and launch are minimal. There are lots of possible launch and control sites for this attack including within the KSA. Pompeo is talking out the wrong end.
    A commenter at Moon of Alabama was good enough to provide this article on Houthi drones.

  33. JP Billen says:

    James Rogers, a visiting war studies professor at Yale agrees that the latest Houthi UAVs have a 900 mile range. But he and the UN call it the UAVX, which the Houthis call the Samad-3 or Sammad-3.
    The Samad-3 has a conformal fuel tank giving it almost three times longer range than the Samad-1.
    Back two months ago, a Houthi spokesman told reporters in a news conference that Samad-3 has a range of 1500 to 1700 km (930 to 1050 miles). He also claimed Samad-3 could either hit a target directly or do what he called a top-to-bottom attack. He did not specify the top-attack capability but it is probably similar to or improved upon the QasefK2 UAV warhead, which detonates HE-FRAG 20 meters over the target. No mention was made of the warhead size. But he did claim it uses advanced technology helping it avoid detection by Saudi radars.
    No mention of guidance system. But their earlier systems have used INS backed up by SatNav, and the Samad-1 used EO and a data link.

  34. Jose says:

    Any information if this was an inside job for Drone guidance and/or delivery?
    “Strategic Effects Strike” – How ironic, LMAO!!!!

  35. Anonymous says:

    The flames of the resistance burn bright or something like that

  36. Adrestia says:

    Final phase guidance could possibly be done using COTS wifi or maybe even using ‘open’ networks in SA combined with COTS ip-camera’s. When the drones fly high enough and have a boosted antenna wifi. There is a lot of open source software available out there that can be used.
    I would go for picking up a local signal in the target area. This can be as simple as using a hotspot on a smart-phone and tunnel the stream through it to the pilots.
    David Kilcullen has written/talked about the use of open source technology and Internet in assymetric warfare. Although I don’t agree with all his ideas, these home-built (if they are) UAVs are an interesting development.

  37. b says:

    How does it have the range and guidance needed?
    Range is simply a question of size.
    As for guidance – a cellphone will do these days. There are some cheap ones that have GPS, Glonass and Baidu receivers. A USB interface to some Raspi processor with digital to analog ports to drive the servos that move the control surfaces of the bird. A small battery will give the needed power.
    In all some $200 for hardware and a few months of programming and testing. If needed one could also use the cellphone camera to compare the target with Google earth pictures.
    All of these are no longer a military specialty. Drones are the ‘democratized’ version of the German V-1. Everyone can build them.

  38. CK says:

    The first time a new thing happens it is just that, happenstance.
    The second time that thing happens it may be co-incidence or it may be reconnaissance.
    The third time that same thing happens it is enemy action.
    This is the third time the Houthi’s have droned a Saudi oil facility and not been impeded.
    It will not be the Iranians they have no need to get involved as long as the Houthi’s are embarrassing the Sauds.

  39. Eric Newhill says:

    Col Lang is right. The range/guidance is the big question. While what you say is true about the guidance system, range remains the issue.
    The Iranians have a drone that is effectively guided for 200 KM (according to the Iranians). It can fly much farther, but it won’t be guided after 200 KM.
    So known drone types in the region don’t need to be “trucked to within a few miles” of the target, but the farther away the attack was launched, the more it points to Iranian involvement at the level of, at least, supplying the drone tech.
    Then again, who knows? Maybe with a little time to experiment, some creative thinking and a pile of cheap electronics, someone could figure out how to guide a drone for greater distances. I can think of some ways that just might work along the lines of what you suggested.

  40. Johnb says:

    The informative part of the official Houti statement is “This operation is one of the largest operations carried out by our forces in the depth of Saudi Arabia and came after a accurate intelligence operation and advance monitoring and cooperation of honorable and free mans within the Kingdom.”.
    The full statement can be found here
    My interpretation is that they had the benefit of some form of forward targeting to ensure that what was most vulnerable was what was hit once the drones had successfully reached the target area. The success ratio appears to have been very high.

  41. turcopolier says:

    eric Newhill/b/all
    As i understand the issue the long pole in the tent on long range active guidance is a need for a line of sight electron9c link. that is why 200 km has been a limitation. US drones use relays through commo satellites to keep a pilot on the oher side of the world in active control of the aircraft. i doubt if the Hourhis have satellite links unless they have figured out how to do that with a satellite phone. If the can’t do that then GPS guidance to the target area is a possibility. At that point some form of terminal guidance is needed. I am struck by the information that a conformal tank has been fitted to some of these birds. This would greatly extend the range.

  42. This is cruise missile technology, rather than remotely piloted UAV technology. The guidance would be self contained on the missile using commercially available GPS receivers. This is becoming widely used in model aircraft circles. The Houthi statement about the attack indicated intelligence gathered from the target area. They probably employed CARVER analysis to identify specific targets within the complex and could have used non-GPS, camera-based guidance to hit the specific targets within the complex. Those camera-based guidance systems are also used by model aircraft hobbyists. All in all, this was a brilliant operation from technology development and production to operational targetting and execution.
    In the early 90s my collection team was in contact with some brilliant and accomplished hackers in Yemen. NSA was shocked that these accomplished people were Yemeni. I’m sure you don’t, but too many people sell these poor hill people short. Seems the Saudis did.

  43. Ghost Ship says:

    Probably quite a lot but Tehran will have plausible deniability.
    The drone won’t have “Made in Iran” stamped on unless Mossad get to the remains first. The engine, that powered these cruise missiles/autonomous drones, and the rest of the bits and pieces will be available on the open market. It wouldn’t surprise me if the guidance system including terminal guidance, used a common-or-garden smartphone. I’m sure the Yemenis have designers, engineers and programmers enough to handle this.
    I remember reading how an engineering company developed a low-cost turbojet engine for powering target drones. It was a bog-standard turbocharger with a combustion chamber bolted in between the compressor and turbine stages. You can even find a how-to guide on the internet.

  44. Eric Newhill says:

    I don’t know what the challenges would be, let alone if they could be overcome, but what if they had operatives at relay stations every 200 KM? As the drones exit the line of sight from the launch base, station 1 picks up the drones and guides them through to station 2, etc; leap frogging all the way to the target.
    Obviously, it’s important to understand how this was done. It will be used against us soon enough.

  45. Eric Newhill says:

    But a shaped charge allows you to create an equal effect with a lighter payload. The amount/weight of charge to get through even 3/4 inch plate would be less. Important when using a drone delivery system.

  46. Eric Newhill says:

    Yes. The markets will react negatively to the uncertainty/instability that this event creates.

  47. Ghost Ship says:

    I think that needs correction

    Saudis need Israeli’s Iron Dome like a hole in the head

    Actually, the Saudis need a few thousand Russian-made Pantsirs. Even at ~$15 million a piece that would still be better value than all the overpriced tat they buy from the west. Better yet, they should just get out of Yemen and forget about confronting Iran

  48. Fred says:

    I agree, China has been kicking our asses with the complicit help of corporate America for decades. Don’t forget the fine, extreme vetted individual who drove for Senator Feinstein. She was “mortified” and he was “foreced to retire”. I wonder if he got a $1 million like the FBI gave to that guy in Moscow now in that wonderful Maryland subdivision I couldn’t afford to buy a home in?

  49. turcopolier says:

    Ghost Ship
    “used a common-or-garden smartphone.” How?

  50. Terence Gore says:

    We seem to be blaming Iran and Iran may be trying to demonstrating it’s power to disrupt in the region.
    Time to replay a golden oldie. From the Wesley Clark 7 Trio

  51. turcopolier says:

    Since I lived among the Zaidi tribesmen I am unlikely to “sell them short.” So, your vision of this version of the weapon system is something like the German V-1 as b said but with GPS guidance to the target area where some on board camera system is used to have a processor direct the missile to a specific target. How would the processor recognize the right target?

  52. walrus says:

    Eric if the thing has GPS, you can preprogram it to go anywhere in. the world by any route you like and it will fly it to within about 30 feet accuracy. A GPS with a USB or serial output is less than $200.

  53. walrus says:

    Google Earth is all you need to target something that big.

  54. turcopolier says:

    Yes. you said that before. 30 ft. isn’t good enough when you wantto hit a particular kind of target from a particular aspect.

  55. walrus says:

    Current GPS give location, speed, heading, altitude, signal quality, accuracy/precision as an NMEA serial or USB data stream at anything up to five times per second, every smartphone and most tablets have one. You can also buy a “puck” receiver $17.99 at Amazon. that gets you thirty feet accuracy anywhere in the world, you don’t need a data link. This is child’s play.

  56. walrus says:

    Col. Lang, what if your target is a 150ft diameter oil storage tank? Google earth says many tanks are about 160ft diameter.

  57. elkern says:

    Can’t help rooting for the Houthi in this fight, but now the geo-political implications are getting serious.
    I really hope the US accusations against Iran are just an attempt to get the Persians to reign in the Houthis a bit, but I’m not sure the US is capable of such subtlety right now. It’s much more likely that the NeoCons are still looking for any excuse to bomb Iran.
    OTOH, Iran has a good reason to slow-walk the demise of the KSA. Iran’s best defense against US threats of annihilation is holding KSA hostage. If Yemen beats KSA too quickly – or blows up too much of the oil infrastructure – Iran loses that card and becomes much more vulnerable.

  58. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I think it was in 2006 during a public speech that Ayatollah Khamenei warned the United States the she could not prtotect the oil installations of Southern Persian Gulf. Someone in USG was listening, none are todat.

  59. b says:

    something like the German V-1 as b said but with GPS guidance to the target area where some on board camera system is used to have a processor direct the missile to a specific target. How would the processor recognize the right target?
    A stored aerial picture (Google Earth) of the target will do. The live picture of a down looking camera in the drone can be compared to that. This would also allow for waypoint navigation guiding the flight (should GPS fail).
    When the object is found the vehicle can spiral down until it hits the ground. There are several other ways this could be done.
    I have a €100 Samsung cellphone/tablet on my desk. It would be fully sufficient for this purpose and would only need an interface to the servos. That is easy to build for someone with a bit of knowledge of electronics.
    The Houthi have said that they had intelligence on the ground. That was probably only to make the Saudis more paranoid. But it could also mean that someone on the ground did the end guidance to the target. The cellphone on the drone might call someone up when it is near the strike area.
    When the Houthi attacked Dubai airport it definitely looked as if they had someone on the ground directing the drone in its last flightphase.

  60. It’s the same technology that’s used in self-driving cars. Some model airplanes can self land using something similar with an onboard camera. Another possibility, based on the Houthi claim of having “advance monitoring and cooperation of honorable and free mans within the Kingdom,” is that the the precise target within the complex is designated by a laser designator or emplaced beacon. That’s something we did in the early 80s.

  61. JP Billen says:

    My two cents on guidance is that JohnB’s comment @ 8:55 regarding forward targeting is correct. Probably Bahrani Shia in or near the oil processing facilities controlled the final flight path. You can expect another Saudi mass arrest and repression of their Shia minorities.
    The Saudis & Emiratis are feckless in shutting down these attacks. They have tried to take out what they thought was the nest at the al-Dulami (al-Delmi) airfield within Sana’a International. That was a waste of time. AnsarAllah has their assembly sites well hidden and their launch sites well dispersed.
    Trump has called bin Salman to offer support. I had thought that with Bolton gone that we might relax a little. But Pomp and Granny Graham appear to be taking up the slack. Will we now commit AWACS and overhead assets? Or worse, kinetic means? Strange that Pomp is claiming the attack originated in Iran. Or maybe not so strange as he probably got that call from Bibi.

  62. Jack says:

    While it is fascinating what the “zaidi tribesmen” can accomplish technologically the implications could be far reaching in their conflict with MbS. Especially if they can scale these types of attacks to hundreds.
    The hysteria around Saudi oil production cuts very likely has been over done. I don’t think a few tanks and a few processing facilities being destroyed means that 5% of global oil production has gone offline.

  63. doug says:

    As an engineer familiar with the tech, cell phones now have all the needed ingredients to make the guts of a high accuracy drone guidance system.
    Multi core, fast, processors. Globally available open source code to put together control systems linked to gps and image recognition. Programmed to establish a low altitude flight path along regions that would minimize probability of detection and interception/countermeasures. Stuff that would cost a fortune a couple decades ago now is dirt cheap and available everywhere. What isn’t is any sort of remote control and guidance outside of a very short range.

  64. Barbara Ann says:

    Could you possibly expand upon “..camera-based guidance to hit the specific targets within the complex”? GPS to get there is trivial these days, but you seem to be referring to some sort of autonomous image recognition software for the terminal guidance system. This sounds highly sophisticated to me, if so. AFAIK the camera-based guidance systems used by model aircraft hobbyists are FPV systems which simply relay camera images to the ground-based ‘pilot’. These rely on a UHF(?) and AFAIK are infeasible for the sort of ranges suggested here. Forgive me if I have misinterpreted your comment.

  65. JMH says:

    I wonder if they had insurance.

  66. oldman22 says:

    Were drones were launched from Iraq? Offical says yes, Iraqi government says no.
    “The Iraqi intelligence official refused to say which bases Saturday’s drones were launched from.
    However, he confirmed that the distance between southern Iraq and the Saudi oilfields was about half the distance the drones would have had to fly had they been launched from Houthi bases in northern Yemen.
    He said the drones had to travel between 500km and 600km, where as if they had been fired from Houthi bases they would have had to cover a distance of between 1,100km and 1,300km.”
    “It was not the Houthis. These were Iranian drones launched from Hashd al-Shaabi bases.”

  67. Amir says:

    FYI some said that it was a cruise missile that took out the Saudi pumping station: twitter.com/mbks15/status/1172888561730936832?s=21
    “… some KH-55 genetics but not Soumar. Looks cheap/USSR era, could be one KH-55 Ukraine sold in the 90’s retrofitted as land missile or pictures were taken in Syria and shows KH-55 fired by Russia few ago…”

  68. JamesT says:

    I’m a little bit skeptical about your claim that “those camera-based guidance systems are also used by model aircraft hobbyists”, but clearly there are researchers building applicable systems and I followed the trail from the youtube video you linked to … to a publications list of professor Tim McLain.
    It includes titles like “Visual Servoing for Multirotor Precision Landing in Daylight and After-Dark Conditions”.
    I’ll bet there are some open source repositories where he or others are publishing the code they are producing as part of their research. Clearly Long Range Precision Strike is proliferating, and I am confident that the rate of proliferation will only accelerate.

  69. Vegetius says:

    If young whites come out to demonstrate against a war with Iraq, the usual suspects will call them Nazis.
    What I want to know is : will older people fall for this trick or will they speak up for their grandkid’s civil rights?

  70. b says:

    Some Russian guy build a turbo jet plane in his garage. The engine is made from old turbochargers. 1 hour video, fun to watch even when one does not know the language: From the construction of the Turbo Jet engine to the flight – just one step

  71. catherine says:

    Now now, poor little mules don’t deserve beating….better to say like to see the Zaidi Yemenis chop the heads off the Saudi snakes…lol
    Can you answer this for me Col.? Long ago I wondered if ALQ would ever target Saudi….now that MbS is ‘westernizing’ Saudi more than ever what do you see happening? I have read that ALQ offshoots are in Yemen but don’t know if that true or Saudi/US extra excuse for Saudi’s war. I don’t see Iran and ALQ ever cooperating but is it possible ALQ is helping the Yemenis?

  72. catherine says:

    I am betting MbS will eventually be assassinated by his own Saudi enemies.

  73. catherine says:

    Maybe the Saudis blew up a few tanks themselves as a false flag now that congress is trying to cut off US support for the Yemen war plus US failure to start bombing Iran. Maybe it was a Israeli false flag, who knows.
    If so, it had the desired effect on Mr.Insane, Lindsey Graham:
    ”Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a prominent foreign policy hawk, said the U.S. should consider striking Iranian oil refineries in response to new attacks on Saudi oil refineries by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.
    “It is now time for the U.S. to put on the table an attack on Iranian oil refineries if they continue their provocations or increase nuclear enrichment,” Graham tweeted.
    “Iran will not stop their misbehavior until the consequences become more real, like attacking their refineries, which will break the regime’s back,” he added
    Tucker Carlson should go after and eviscerate Graham

  74. JP Billen says:

    Walrus, why would they want to hit a storage tank? Aramco could just isolate that tank or tanks, put out the fire, and get back in business.
    Abqaiq is primarily an oil processing facility to remove hydrogen sulfide gas from the crude. They would do more damage targeting the gas-oil separators, stabilization towers, and/or scrubbers & coolers. That would shut down the plant for much longer while Aramco had to rebuild. Surely if the Houthis had inside intel, they would have known what best to hit. Might be a bit harder to target though.

  75. eakens says:

    How can this damage be from UAVs or missiles? How can they be that accurate. Looks more like a large caliber round into those tanks to me.

  76. Eric Newhill says:

    What about elevated terrain features, power lines, buildings, trees, etc?
    If they’re just pre-programming a GPS, then the defense against them is easy. Put up a high fence and the mindless blind things will just fly into the fence.
    It makes more sense – to me at least – to have relay stations every 200KM or so and/or an FO near the target “painting” it and/or doing some final guidance onto target with a laptop (or some similar device) connected to the drone’s electronic eye.

  77. turcopolier says:

    The hits are all from the same angle.
    looks like aimed fire.

  78. walrus says:

    Damage assessment seems to me to prove the Houthis did it, not Iran. Images allegedly showing what was hit at Abqaiq are on zerohedge and maybe elsewhere. If real, they appear to me to be very revealing. Google Earth shows the general arrangement of the plant.
    1. What was targeted were spherical (therefore under pressure) storage tanks that probably contained LPG. These are the most “lethal “ assets in the plant in terms of potential for fire and explosion. If you are “lucky” and start a fire that heats one of these things, you can trigger a boiling liquid expanding vapour explosion – a BLEVE in firefighters terms that can level square miles and kill a lot of people. So whoever did the targeting knew what to aim for. Guess which tanks are going to be most difficult to repair too.
    2. Each of the eleven tanks that appear to have been hit have what appears to be about a ten foot hole in the upper hemisphere which must have been delivered in a diving attack. This demonstrates impressive accuracy and consistency. This suggests to me either some sort of terminal guidance and a sophisticated autopilot or perhaps differential or WAAS(aviation grade) GPS because I don’t believe you can get that accuracy with a cheap off the shelf civilian GPS.
    3. Each of the tanks has ONE hole. That is accuracy again, such economy!
    4. The puncture holes are all aligned on the South west quadrant of the tanks! That suggests that if these drones flew straight line courses, then they came from the direction of Yemen. However the sophistication of the attack COULD mean that an Iranian launching site is still possible and that the drones were programmed to start their attacks from an initial point to the Southwest so as to disguise the perpetrator.
    All together a pretty good display of offensive capabilities. The Saudi Princes must be thankful the targets weren’t palace bedrooms.
    Disclaimer: I is an amateur at BDA.

  79. Amir says:

    And the drones flew South-East wards, through the Clown Prince’s defensive ring, the. took a turn 180 towards northwest (Are you staying that this maneuver increases the accuracy?) & hit the installation from a direction coming from Yemen? Instead of coming from Yemen to begin with, avoiding Muhammad Bone Saw’s air defences and in a straight line?

  80. JamesT says:

    I beg to disagree, Vegetius. They will not call them Nazis they will call them “Russian agents”.

  81. oldman22 says:

    “US and Saudi officials, still amid an ongoing investigation, have told reporters they are “certain” the attack actually originated from Iraq, especially as the debris and precision targeting show a level of “sophistication” which would link it to Iran’s elite IRGC.”
    from the same article posted by Walrus above

  82. Amir says:

    Reservoirs are of no importance. Pumping station are the choke point as there is a limited capacity to replace/repair them. Obviously any repair/replacement is feasible but it takes time:
    Pump station #1 goo.gl/maps/pGxUbJQGfAZ3aVkN6
    Buqayq goo.gl/maps/X3ou6iGSuKz64AsX7

  83. Barbara Ann, not being an engineer we can learn together. I’m convinced an understandable explanation of this technology and how it can be implemented will be found in the hobbyist world. There’s a lot of autonomous drone projects for Arduino and RasberryPi microcontrollers. I found this one video on the Pixy2 Camera for image recognition for the Arduino and RasberryPi. I haven’t watched the whole video yet, but I intend to. This is not just an FPV system.
    “The Pixy2 is a low cost yet powerful camera that is capable of object recognition, line tracking and simple barcode reading. The device is the latest iteration of the Pixy Cam, a project built by Charmed Labs in conjunction with the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. With a variety of interfaces and lots of code libraries and samples the Pixy2 can be used with an Arduino, Raspberry Pi, Beaglebone Black or just about any computer, microcomputer or microcontroller.”
    “In this video I will show you how the Pixy2 works, how to hook it up and how to train it using software called PixyMon which runs on Windows, Linux and Mac OS X. I’ll then show you how to easily hook up your Pixy2 to an Arduino and run code to detect object, lines, intersections and simple barcodes. Thanks to its onboard processor the coding for Pixy2 is very simple. It provides a very easy method of adding vision to your next Arduino or Raspberry Pi project.”

  84. JohnH says:

    Don’t forget that Iraq was made responsible for 9/11 before Iran was. The guilty party is whoever the politicians decide they want it to be…

  85. Christian J Chuba says:

    How did the Houthis beat Saudi air defenses?
    From B’s website, the observation that most of the Saudi air defenses are on the Persion Gulf coast line makes sense to me, of course they are most worried about Iran and it would refute the argument about ‘how could the Houthis get by Saudi air defenses’. Answer: because they did not expect an attack from that direction in that part of their country. I doubt very much that Iran would take a chance in making their own drone attack. If they did, well, the Iranians demonstrate yet again that the Persian Gulf is their lake (as would their infiltration of the UAE port without detection).
    Iran just attacked 5% of the ‘World’s oil supply’
    Good God, the caterwauling about this makes me wretch. Why are Saudi exports the ‘world oil supply’ but Trump driving Iranian exports to 0 because he wants his own piece of paper not considered the ‘world’s oil supply’. I hate politicians and their sock puppets in the MSM.
    Free Ad for U.S. military exports
    The Saudis must really be glad that they spent all of those billions on U.S. miltiary HW. I love how all of the talking heads are dismissing this as an unforseen jump in technology. The Russians have had dozens of drone attacks at their military base in Syria and have thwarted them with great efficiency. If the Russians had our temperament they would be rubbing our noses in it.

  86. JP Billen says:

    Walrus, where are the scorch marks on those spheroid tanks?

  87. Eric Newhill says:

    I think if you are capable of that level of accuracy, then you could have the drones attack from any angle and direction you want to. If you attack from the east and want to make it look like they came from the West, it wouldn’t be a problem.

  88. michaelj72 says:

    FYI thirteen photos are in a side show here, at the very top of the news article, at this AP news story entitled
    Trump: US locked and loaded for response to attack on Saudis

  89. Tidewater says:

    I think it’s worse than that. If you knock out Abqaig you knock out most of Saudi Arabia’s oil production. Abqaiq is a choke point.
    How do you do that? Simple. You knock out Qurayyah.
    What does Qurayyah have to do with Abqaig? Plenty. It looks to me like that that is where Abqaiq gets it water from.
    What does water supply have to do with Abqaiq? Do you mean drinking water? Couldn’t that be trucked in during an emergency?
    No, it’s more than that. There’s so much steam involved it sounds like the Robert E. Lee.
    Abqaiq Plants facility is made up of three primary processing units. The first is an oil processing unit. The second is an NGL facility. (NGL separates natural gas liquids from natural gas.) The third is the Utilities unit.
    The Utilities unit is the one we are interested in. This unit supplies power, steam, treated water and instrument air to the oil and NGL operations.
    Six generators provide the power for the Utilities unit. Three of these are steam turbines and three are combustion gas turbine generators. There are fourteen boilers. Steam from these boilers is supplied to the oil processing unit, NGL facility, turbines and compressors.
    The plant needs sixteen reverse osmosis units to treat the water which flows to the plant. (Nota bene.) This provides demineralised water, water that is also potable. This water is also what makes the boilers and heat recovery steam generators produce the necessary steam.
    Of course, the water produced by the plant’s reverse osmosis system is used as drinking water for plant personnel and for the neighboring Abqaiq community.
    There are two steam-driven and three motor-driven air compressors, and these are what provides instrument air. Control valves at the Abqaiq Plant are operated by this instrument.
    But why does Abqaig use reverse osmosis systems–16 of them? Wouldn’t you think it would be connected to a desalination plant over on the Gulf and given its own dedicated pipe line? Or even be given a second pipe line all the way up to whereever you can hook into, maybe even as far as Al Khobar? Say forty miles? This to build redundancy into the water supply system? Extra pipe-line being a small price for security.
    The plant has reverse osmosis systems because the water it is getting remains saline, even though it has been processed. What I think has happened here is that the Qurayyah plant provided so much water for the Ghawar oil field and the Khurais oil field, and there are so many powerful gas turbine water pumps moving the water wherever it is designated to go, that ARAMCO simply extended a pipeline to Abqaiq and let the Qurayyah plant–a superbly functioning system on a grand scale–go ahead and be the water provider for the most critical plant in the Kingdom. So the Qurayyah treated saline water is run through reverse osmosis treatment once it gets inland to Abqaig and then is put to use. Without this processed water, it seems unnecessary to say, the Abqaiq plant will have to be shut down.
    ARAMCO thought of everything I suppose, with regards to Qurayyah, but not existential war with a neighboring nation that has the Yakhont missile, its own indigenously manufactured missiles, drones and submarines.
    I don’t think the builders of the Saudi Arabia oil fields ever even bothered to think about what war would mean for them.
    As to how an attack could be made on Qurayyah, that is another matter–or rather speculation, like this one– but I cannot think of a better place for any adversary of Saudi Arabia to concentrate a strike on than this power station, seawater treatment plant and the other critical facilities there.
    I submit again my conclusion: knock out Qurayyah and you will knock out most of Saudi Arabia’s oil and LNG production; at any rate, the amount that goes through Abqaq.
    Sounds crazy, don’t it?

  90. Johnb says:

    I believe there were more vulnerable targets on site and they were the intended targets, I thought as TTG said that once the drone arrived over target it received some additional assistance to hit the most vulnerable targets.
    The images here show pinpoint targeting to my eye.

  91. Against missiles and drones it should be effective if a competent crew are using it. That said, in Saudi hands…

  92. JJackson says:

    TTG re. “The Houthi statement about the attack indicated intelligence gathered from the target area.”
    That was the bit I had picked up on, I forget the wording, but was left with the impression they were thanking on, or near, site operatives who controlled the terminal guidance by one of the methods already discussed.

  93. BrotherJoe says:

    What does this say about our own vulnerability to these types of attacks ?

  94. Terence Gore says:

    “1. What was targeted were spherical (therefore under pressure) storage tanks that probably contained LPG. These are the most “lethal “ assets in the plant in terms of potential for fire and explosion. ”
    0 for 4 in massive explosions according to picture in link
    propane tank explosion video

  95. Norbert M Salamon says:

    If you use the larger display you can read English subtitles indicating steps and clarifying special operations from blue print to Plan B when Plan a did not solve problem.

  96. Fred says:

    A burning oil reservoir makes great television and one’s message is broadcast across the world. Repeatedly. The Yemenis can always fire another salvo at a higher value target.

  97. prawnik says:

    Even if MBS got the message, how can he climb down so without losing face? I am not the greatest expert on the Saudis, but I know that this is a culture in which shame and honor are critical.
    Not only that, but MBS has just gotten a very big and very very public bloody nose.
    He escalates, expect more attacks. He backs down and he looks weak, and he cannot afford to be seen as weak.


    The King can order a cease-fire followed by a negotiated withdrawal.
    Iranians will help the King withdraw honorably and without loosing face.

  99. phil cattar says:

    I do not despise Senator Graham.He is obviously very intelligent with a quick and witty mind.However I have thought for some time now the Mossad or a “friend” of the current Israeli government has something on him.

  100. Phil Cattar says:

    I do not despise Senator Graham.He is obviously very intelligent .He has a quick mind ,funny and great at repartee.However I have suspected for a long time that Israeli intelligence or “friends” of the current Likud government have something on him.I see no political reason why a US Senator from SC would be so “gung ho” for Israel.

  101. Heidi’s master says:

    For very accurate targetting, you could use stratus adsb receiver. This is accurate to within a few feet. ADSB is available in Saudi Arabia.

  102. JP Billen says:

    That would be the best solution. Some sources have said the Emiratis are ready to withdraw. But that still leaves Bibi and the new Bolton wannabee, the honorable gentleman from South Carolina.

  103. Barbara Ann says:

    Wow, this technology sure is fascinating. I read up a lot about FPV systems a few years back with a view to building one, but this is a whole new ball game and somewhat beyond me. If b below says it can be done with a $100 cellphone I’m happy to take his word for it.
    It does make me wonder how much longer such potential high-value targets can continue to survive without the type of GPS jamming the Russians have at Hmeimim. Or perhaps the GPS satellites themselves will have to be reprogrammed to scramble their signal around such places. Doesn’t help with GLONASS or BeiDou of course. An emplaced homing beacon was my other thought too. Anyhow, however they did it, it is a major coup for the Houthis.

  104. Adrestia says:

    thats the hotspot on a smartphone I meant. using a single board computer (like the raspberry pi) with gps, wifi, ipcam modules and some relatively simple written code to integrate et voila. poor man’s guidance system with a (almost) realtime datalink for a few hundred $ in total for sbc and pre-paid smartphone.

  105. turcopolier says:

    What happens when the missile goes out of range of a cell tower?

  106. Adrestia says:

    A satellite link isn’t neededwhen internet is available (which is likely near the oil installation). it can be done using ip (internet protocol). this might even be faster because satellite has a delay (latency) because of the distance to/from the satellite.
    another option can be using another high-flying drone as a relay. this can also be built relative simple. poor man’s BACN
    Terminal guidance can be done using a ipcam using the BACN or ip.
    But I presume this is what TTG also meant.

  107. turcopolier says:

    regarding the use of your hundred euro Samsung phone as guidance system, what happens when the missile gets beyond the coverage range of a cell tower? The Arabian peninsula is not Germany. There must be many areas of no coverage.

  108. turcopolier says:

    How about using a satellite phone as a guidance system or something like INMARSAT?

  109. Adrestia says:

    Then the signal would be lost, but the route to the target area can be pre-programmed using GPS. Only in the final phase more accuracy is required. In the target area there must be GSM coverage available. I cannot imagine no coverage over there, since internet and telephones have become an essential requirement everywhere where people work and live.
    The other alternative (I also put it some posts above near the line-of-sight) is to have another high flying drone that relays the data. The poor mans BACN
    Personally I would use both. Single Board Computers are powerful enough and enough other COTS equipment and open source software is available. Write some software to let it work together.
    Antennas can be boosted (the strength is often restricted by law) and buy from specialized providers like Mikrotik that make specialized equipment for use in areas with little infrastructure. So range shouldn’t be a problem.

  110. Adrestia says:

    For communication it is possible. For guidance not, unless the datalink is used for a camera. It would remove the need for a relay, but I believe INMARSAT and others are all high orbit. There is a delay in the signal, but that is probably not an issue as the drone’s used aren’t that fast.
    Personally I would not use them, because they are more difficult to get (and thus easier to detect, ‘modify’ and disrupt when getting the subscription and equipment in Yemen) and I think the commercial equipment is bulkier and heavier than COTS wifi, GSM and GPS. A simple smart phone has them all, but I would go for the single board computer. Cheaper and more flexible.

  111. different clue says:

    Only tangentially related, but . . . I remember TTG having written in the past about the need to digitally zap and evaporate the KSA’s digital money supply.
    This would be a fine time to do that, if someone knew how.

  112. walrus says:

    Just google “open source rc autopilot” I think that answers the question of guidance along with my earlier link to some chinese hardware that gives an example of what can be done. I guess optical terminal guidance is doable as well.

  113. Peter Williams says:

    Civilian GPS can get to 1-2m accuracy if you can calculate the GPS offset for a particular target. It requires three accurate points to measure the received offset and you can triangulate to calculate the actual offset at the target location. The Australian military was using such systems in the late 1980s.
    Workers at Abqaiq could easily supply the required information.

  114. elkern says:

    Epstein wasn’t the only Epstein. There are plenty of other providers of similar “services”, whichever way your pleasure tends. And cameras are cheap.

  115. PRC90 says:

    Walrus, it’s probably worse than that.
    I’d suggest a copy of one of the Rotax ultralight engines, with a two-bladed composite or even wooden prop. This would correspond to your numbers and I agree about the speed; anything over 150Kts is getting a bit quick plus would chew up specific air range.
    Note that the small props on the airframes in the various Iranian sourced PR photos do not match the capabilities of the airframes – the actual props/engine combo would be their little secret, but fairly easy to guess.
    A triple-INS system occasionally peeking at GNSS immediately after launch or (more likely) enroute Digitized Scene Mapping for re-alignment, with DSM switched on for terminal guidance, would be a nasty little package. I think they will stay as far from GNSS reliance as possible, and triple-INS is a good alternative.
    Digitized Scene Mapping is established technology, and thermal DSM would not be beyond the tech capability of the Iranian sponsor.
    All this plus a CPU could be run on a string of LiON batteries with a small ram air turbine generator for backup.
    CEP ? One of their 2018 promotional videos shows them targeting and hitting some airport catering trucks, but I have doubts about the content.

  116. PRC90 says:

    Yep, the next iteration will see Yemeni/Iranian AD suppression drones as part of their strike package. As I suspect US/Allied forces will take over the Saudi counter-drone AD role, this would put those assets and personnel in harms way.

Comments are closed.