First Image Of Iranian / Houthi Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile (ASBM) In Action

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First Image Of Iranian / Houthi Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile (ASBM) In Action

Flag IranFlag Houthi The Greek-owned bulk carrier Zografia (IMO: 9486013) was hit in the Red Sea on January 16 2024. It was sailing from Vietnam to Israel at the time. It was said to have suffered only minor damage, with no fatalities among the 24 crew.

A video has emerged of the moments the missile struck. It is possible to say from this that it was an anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) fired from the direction of Yemen. It struck the ship amidships and close to the center line, diving in at an almost 45 degree angle. The explosion was significant.

The first observation is that it implies an imaging guidance, likely infrared / electro-optical. This matches the nosecones observed on Houthi ASBMs. The missile was likely aiming at the center of the ship, hitting it with great accuracy.

The Missile

Given video quality (the missile was traveling at high speed) it is tricky to be too specific on the outline of the missile. It is roughly 10 meters long however and has noticeable tail fins. This broadly matches the Fateh-110/313 family of ballistic missiles from Iran. These come in anti-ship guided versions ('Khalij Fars') which are known as 'Asef' in Houthi service. The Asef is 8.8 meters (29 foot) long and 0.612 meters (2 feet) in diameter. It can carry a 380 kg (840 lb) warhead (some sources indicate larger) 500 km (270 NM).
Iran-IRGC Houthi missile Asef Fateh-313
Asef being paraded by the Houthi Movement, November 2023

The Houthis also have the slightly larger, and thus longer ranged, Tankil. This is a version of the Iranian Raad-500. This reportedly has a separating warhead stage. If correct, this would rule it out since the missile pictured appears intact.
Iran-IRGC Houthi missile Tankil Raad-500
Tankil being paraded by the Houthi Movement, November 2023

The Houthis also have a smaller variation, like a scaled down Fateh-313. They claim that the 'Falq-1' is 100% Yemeni, but it is realistically another IRGC project, possibly to further reduce the cost of the weapons. It is 6 meters (20 feet) long and has a range of 200 km (108 NM). The missile seen could possibly be this, but looks a bit larger. I feel that the Asef/Fateh-313 is therefore more likely.
Iran-IRGC Houthi missile Falq-1

Serious Threat

Bulk carriers like Zografia are actually highly survivable. This is partly because historically there was a serious risk if their cargo holds got flooded. They consequently have ballast tanks and double bottoms as standard. Additionally, in Zografia's case, the cargo holds were empty.

However the attack should still be concerning. The accuracy of the missile appeared impressive. And many ships, not least warships which tend to have central superstructures, may be better targets than an empty bulk carrier. British and American warships have been able to fend of missile and drone attacks, but this and other hits show that the threat is real.

It also shows that they can hit moving targets, something which has been in doubt previously. But they likely need accurate targeting information to launch. My expectation is that the terminal homing only allows a limited amount of course correction.

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