Attack on Saudi Frigate was by “Drone Boat”


DefenseNews reports that the 30 January attack on the Saudi frigate, previously reported as a suicide attack, was actually done using unmanned, remote-controlled boat filled with explosives.

The story makes it sound like this is hard to do, but in fact it has become very simple just as has the use of hobby drones.

“Donegin is concerned “first that it is in the hands of someone like the Houthis. That’s not an easy thing to develop. There have been many terrorist groups that have tried to develop that, it’s not something that was just invented by the Houthis. There’s clearly support there coming from others, so that’s problematic.”

What does it require? I presume this boat had no real autonomy, that it was simply radio controlled (RC). Presumably it was supported and controlled by the boat from which the Houthi rebels filmed the attack.


Steering a collision course may be difficult from a half mile to a mile away, but it can be simplified by mounting a camera on the RC boat and broadcasting the picture back to the controlling boat. Then all you need to do is keep the target in your camera’s field of view and close the range to zero.

Theoretically it is relatively easy to disrupt the radio control and television links, but unless you anticipate the need it won’t happen.

We know these remote control boats are not easy to stop because the “swarming boat,” remote control targets we use take an awful lot of punishment and can seem impossible to stop.


If you are a terrorist, you can also make the boats very hard to sink by putting the explosives and critical components low in the boat and covering them with a steel plate. Laid near horizontal the steel plate would deflect small arms and resist fragment. Follow that up with liberal use of expanding foam filler to maintain flotation.

Unfortunately, it is just not that hard.


9 thoughts on “Attack on Saudi Frigate was by “Drone Boat”

  1. Pingback: 30mm “Swimmer” Round | Chuck Hill's CG Blog

  2. Yeah, that’s why I always snicker when I see a RB-S with an M-240B out trying to protect Washington State’s ferry fleet. I’m not that smart and I can figure out how to make a drone boat, surely an organization with resources can do better then me.

  3. From the German navy blog “marine Forum”: 11 March, “YEMEN, In the „first such incident since the beginning of the civil war“, a Yemeni coast guard vessel in the southern Red Sea hit a sea mine suspected to have been planted by Houthi rebels … two sailors killed, another eight wounded in the blast”

  4. Pingback: Remote Control Boat and Drone Attacks–USNI | Chuck Hill's CG Blog

  5. Pingback: Anatomy of a Drone Boat, a Water-Borne Improvised Explosive Device (WBIED)–Legion Magazine | Chuck Hill's CG Blog

  6. Pingback: Explosive Boats –In Yemen, and a Look Back | Chuck Hill's CG Blog

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