US navy officials uncovered the weapons flooding into the war-torn country in two separate shipments. The new type of the so-called 358 missiles are designed to avoid US defensive measures, an expert told the New York Times. The cruise missiles can bring down helicopters and the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey, an American multimission tiltrotor military aircraft.
Captain Bill Urban, chief spokesman for US Central Command, said analysts believe the Islamic Republic has been sending weapons to Houthi rebels in Yemen for the past five years.
The civil war which began in 2015 has given birth to a massive humanitarian crisis, with millions being pushed to the brink of starvation.
Capt Urban declined to speak about how the missiles seized in the Arabian Sea would work but insisted they originated in Iran.
He told reporters at a press briefing on Wednesday: ”If the weapons were manufactured in Iran, then they came from Iran.
“Certainly, 150 anti-tank guided missiles do not just walk away.
“They are illicitly smuggled for a purpose and that purpose is to spread lethal assistance to the Houthis, to Iranian proxies, there’s not a plausible explanation on how these weapons got on to a vessel in Yemen without the sanction of the Iranian government.”
He said the missiles destined for the Shia Muslim rebel group consist of three separate parts.
There are two motors and an explosive warhead in each missile.
They can be put together after shipment and fired from a crude launcher on the ground.
A weapons expert said once the missile is fired and has gained enough speed, a solid-fuel boost motor falls away.
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At this point, a cruise motor kicks in.
The missile then follows a figure-eight pattern and detects any targets within reach.
An expert said kerosene or diesel can be used to fuel such weapons.
In November, three of the so-called 358 missiles were found be a crew on board the Forrest Sherman, a Navy destroyer.
Five more were discovered by another vessel as recently as this month.
In addition to the antiaircraft weapons, 170 anti-tank guided missiles were found.
The Iranians also sent 13,000 blasting caps to their allies in Yemen.
The caps are used in the making of roadside bombs.
Capt Urban said the war was being prolonged by Iran’s decision to flood the country will the missiles.
Both Tehran and the Houthis have denied any links.
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