Since beginning an air war against in Houthi rebels in Yemen last year, the Saudis and their allies have relied on U.S. tankers to refuel their aircraft in flight.

And these missions continue today, Air Forces Central Command officials recently told Air Force Times.

"We've flown 709 sorties involving 3,720 receivers," Air Force Maj.or Timothy Smith, spokesman for the command, said on Feb. 17. "And we've offloaded 26,591,200 pounds of fuel" to foreign aircraft, he said. 

AFCENT has been tracking the latest data as of April 3, 2015. On that date, just a few days into the Saudi-led bombing campaign, Houthi fighters — anti-government rebels who advanced on the port-city of Aden — faced a series of setbacks when Saudi and other regional warplanes dislodged them.

The first few weeks involved dozens of fighter jets from Egypt, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, among other Gulf nations.

The air campaign grew with relentless intensity throughout 2015, displacing more than 2 million people and killing thousands; recently it has been more sporadic.

"The air strikes are less frequent than they used to be," said Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. "But the Sana'a and Taiz area as well as Ma'rib are hit on a semi-regular basis," the expert in Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa conflicts said.

Public buildings in areas like Taiz are consistently shelled by the Iranian-backed, Shi'ite Houthi rebels, according to witnesses, which partially dictates how the Saudi coalition — pro-government sympathizers — targets the war front.

Yet officials have said Saudi ignores precise targeting, leading to more devastation and civilian casualties.

"There's a lot of ambiguity as to whether the U.S. has a role" here, "and that ambiguity might be deliberate," Gartenstein-Ross said.

Oriana Pawlyk covers deployments, cyber, Guard/Reserve, uniforms, physical training, crime and operations in the Middle East, Europe and Pacific for Air Force Times. She was the Early Bird Brief editor in 2015. Email her at

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