ARES has documented Houthi fighters with two models of anti-materiel rifle (AMR) manufactured in Canada and the United States of America, but more images posted to social media appear to show a Houthi fighter armed with an Iranian AM50 (Sayyad-2) AMR.
Produced by the Iranian state-controlled Defence Industries Organization’s (DIO) Individual Combat Industries Group (ICIG), the AM50 is a single-shot, bolt-action, anti-materiel rifle chambered for 12.7 x 99 mm (.50 BMG). Further technical information about the AM50 is shown in the table below, taken from a brochure displayed at a past International Police, Safety and Security Equipment Exhibition in Iran.
The AM50 was developed following an Iranian purchase of Steyr HS .50 rifles from Austria. The AM50 is most easily visually distinguished from the HS .50 by its grip and barrel. The Iranian AM50 seems to make use of the pistol grip which ICIG produces for the S-5.56, a copy of the Chinese CQ rifle (itself an AR-15 clone). HS .50 rifles are themselves derived from a Heinrich Fortmeier design developed for Steyr in 2002, now available as the Fortmeier .50 BMG. While the Iranian AM50 features the modified bolt handle and muzzle brake adopted by Steyr in the production of HS .50 rifles, the barrel appears to be of an evenly tapered, non-fluted design, more similar to the Fortmeier rifles, rather than the stepped, fluted design seen in the Steyr rifles.
The AM50 has been observed in the hands of Iranian, Iraqi and Syrian government troops, as well as non-state armed groups within Syria, Iraq and Gaza. In November 2015 an AM50 was amongst other materiel, largely Iranian, allegedly captured from Shi’a militia fighters by Jabhat al-Nusra forces in Syria. In 2014 ARES documented the AM50 in the hands of Iraqi government forces, thought to have been supplied through Shi’a militia fighters from Iran.
Iran is believed to have provided financial and materiel support to Houthi forces. One vessel seized off the Yemeni coast in September 2015 was carrying Iranian-manufactured arms, though it was later claimed they may have been bound for Somalia. A similar claim was made of the Jihan 1, an Iranian vessel seized in 2013, also carrying arms. While the most likely avenue of supply for the AM50 in Yemen is direct material support from Iran, limited movement of Shi’a fighters from other conflict zones may also account for the presence of this weapon.
AM50 Technical Characteristics
Calibre: 12.7 × 99 mm (.50 BMG)
Muzzle velocity: 850 metres per second
Rate of fire: 3-5 rounds per minute
Effective range: 1200 metres
Overall length: 1480 mm
Barrel length: 913 mm
Weight: 12.2 kg