Is America Still Supporting Offensive Operations in Yemen?
The deal would see 350 civilian contractors and two U.S. government officials oversee maintenance to keep Saudi Arabian helicopters and their weapons operational, train crew to operate them, and implement upgrades.
Cooper wrote to me “As far as I know, no RSLF AH-64s were deployed anywhere deeper than 30-40 kilometers inside Yemen.” However, Saudi authorities reported an AH-64D had crashed on July 25, 2016 due to “weather conditions” (Houthis claimed a shoot-down) in Marib governorate. Marib city is over 120 miles south of the border; the governorate’s closest point to the Saudi soil is 70 miles away.
Later, the Coalition sought to capture the key port of Hudaydah, located one hundred miles south of the Saudi border. A Saudi Apache was allegedly downed there on March 16, 2017, but without confirmation. Media reported in 2018 that Saudi and Emirati Apaches were committed to supporting an unsuccessful ground offensive on the port.
The last Apache loss occurred November 29, 2019, when Houthi forces recorded from multiple angles a surface-to-air missile attack (allegedly using a modified R-73 air-to-air heat-seeking missile) on an AH-64A near the Saudi border, causing it to crash in flames.
Summary of Findings
Sources confirm the loss of at least five Saudi and one UAEAF Apache, including at least two to hostile fire. An additional AH-64 crash-landed in Yemen after being struck by a missile, and one more forced to land due to ‘technical failures’. Pro-Houthi sources claim six more Apaches were shot down, without confirmation.
It appears true that the Saudi Apaches were extensively used to combat Houthi forces along the border area, and often well inside Saudi territory. However, several sources report Saudi Apaches also supported ground offensives targeting cities like Hajjah city and Hudaydah. Though Apache attacks reportedly targeted legitimate military targets like enemy mechanized units, supporting offensives seeking to capture cities in Yemen cannot be described as “defensive.” Nor can the continuation of a naval blockade. Furthermore, Saudi Apaches are confirmed to have crashed in Marib province and been based in al-Mahra province, far from the border.
Saudi Apaches are alleged to have caused mass civilian casualties in at least three incidents totaling 114 civilian deaths. In one incident, Saudi authorities claimed Yemeni fishermen were smuggling arms and were, therefore, a valid target. In two other incidents, Saudi authorities deny responsibility.
Sébastien Roblin holds a Master’s Degree in Conflict Resolution from Georgetown University and served as a university instructor for the Peace Corps in China. He has also worked in education, editing, and refugee resettlement in France and the United States. He currently writes on security and military history for War Is Boring.