Operation Decisive Storm -- Air Power Over Yemen

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A Saudi-led coalition of Middle Eastern and African states has started a major air campaign against Houthi rebels in Yemen. We take a look at the air assets assembled for Operation Decisive Storm.

After Houthi rebels toppled the Yemeni government causing president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi to flee to Aden earlier this month, a Saudi-led coalition of Middle Eastern states launched an air campaign to intervene.

Operation Decisive Storm began on March 26 and has resulted in one of the most extraordinary gatherings of air power seen in recent years, with air arms from the Gulf Cooperation Council nations, except Oman, joined by aircraft from Morocco, Egypt and Sudan, as well as Jordan.

The numbers of aircraft involved are quite extraordinary but perhaps illustrate the concern that Saudi Arabia and its neighbors have for the spread of the Houthi insurgency in the south of the Arabia peninsula.

Saudi Arabia is supporting the operation with 100 aircraft that are likely to include fighters and support aircraft. One of the Royal Saudi Air Force’s (RSAF’s) F-15S Strike Eagles crashed into the Gulf of Aden on March 28 after suffering from technical problems. Both aircrew ejected and were rescued by a U.S. helicopter.

Credit: Tony Osborne - Aviation Week

Bahrain has deployed between eight and 12 of its F-16s, Qatar has sent 10 of its 12 Mirage 2000s. The United Arab Emirates has deployed 30 aircraft, while Morocco and Jordan have each deployed six F-16s. Jordan’s participation is particularly noteworthy given its heavy involvement in operations against the Islamic State insurgency in Iraq and Syria. Reports state that Kuwait has sent 15 F/A-18 Hornets.

Egypt’s aerial contribution is unclear, but its neighbor Sudan is perhaps the most surprising of the participants, bringing a trio of Sukhoi Su-24 Fencers.

How big a role the Su-24s will play remains to be determined, particularly as the aircraft are not compatible with Western weapons stockpiled at Saudi air bases, forcing the Sudanese to transport bombs and missiles to Saudi Arabia where the aircraft have been forward-based for the campaign.

Pakistan says it is examining a request from Riyadh to join the coalition.

Some still images and videos have emerged showing air operations underway at King Khalid air base near Khamis Mushait in the southwest of the country.

Footage released on March 31 shows a number of Saudi F-15Cs, F-15S', Tornado IDS and Typhoon aircraft launching and recovering as well as Kuwaiti, Qatari aircraft and the aforementioned Sudanese Su-24s under sun shelters awaiting their next sorties. The footage released by the Al Arabiya television network onto YouTube also shows the RSAF’s 99 Sqn. AS532M Cougar helicopters used for combat search and rescue duties. The Al Arabiya cameras also appear to have caught an RSAF F-15S with a Goodrich DB-110 reconnaissance pod on the belly. 

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