US warships stationed in the Red Sea have been actively engaging in defense against a surge of attacks by Houthi forces from Yemen. In a striking example of the escalating conflict, the US Navy reported that within a mere 10-hour period on Tuesday, they countered 17 drones and missiles launched by the Houthis.
This surge in hostile activities marks a significant uptick in the confrontation between the US Navy and the Iran-backed Houthi forces. Yahya Sare’e, a spokesman for the Houthi forces, declared on a social media platform formerly known as Twitter that these attacks were a gesture of “continued support and solidarity with the Palestinian people”.
This statement aligns with previous assertions from the group claiming they target vessels headed for Israel, a retaliation for the Israeli forces' actions in Gaza.
A Widespread Maritime Threat
The situation in the Red Sea, a crucial maritime trade route, has grown increasingly precarious.
A senior US military official revealed that over the past month, the Houthis have launched around 100 attacks on 14 different commercial and merchant vessels. These assaults have not only threatened the safety of those directly involved but also disrupted international trade, with at least 44 countries affected by these attacks.
In response to this mounting threat, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced the creation of a coalition involving at least 10 countries, focused on bolstering security in the Red Sea region. This coalition aims to deter further attacks by maintaining a fleet presence capable of rapid response.
However, despite these efforts, Houthi militants continue to target ships operating near Yemen.
US Naval Response and Tactical Challenges
The US Navy's engagement against these threats was exemplified on Tuesday when the guided-missile destroyer USS Laboon, along with F/A-18 fighter jets from the USS Eisenhower, successfully intercepted and neutralized the 17 drones and missiles launched by the Houthis.
The specific armaments employed by the US Navy in these counterattacks have not been disclosed, but experts highlight the diverse range of defense systems available on US destroyers. John Bradford, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, shed light on the tactical considerations involved.
"The drones are slower and can be hit with cheaper missiles or even the ship's gun. Faster missiles must be intercepted with more sophisticated interceptor missiles," he explained.