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Warships Respond To Wave Of Drone Attacks Disrupting Maritime Trade In The Red Sea Area

drones Middle East
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Carney (DDG 64) transits the Suez Canal, Nov. 26. Carney is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations to help ensure maritime security and stability in the Middle East region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Aaron Lau)

After Houthis said they will target all ships headed to Israel, regardless of nationality, U.S., U.K. And French Forces are responding to the drone attacks.

On Dec. 18, 2023, Yemen’s Houthi rebels claimed to have launched a drone attack targeting the MSC Clara and Norwegian-owned Swan Atlantic in the Red Sea, the latest in a series of assaults that have disrupted maritime trade in the area.

After the Arleigh-Burke class guided missile destroyer USS Carney shot down four land attack cruise missiles and 19 drones launched by Houthi forces in Yemen over a nine-hour period, multiple new drone attacks are being foiled in the same area in the Red Sea. In fact, the U.S. Central Command announced that the USS Carney successfully engaged a wave of 14 drones, which were assessed to be one-way attack drones and subsequently shot down.

Last week, the Iran-backed Houthi movement said they would target all ships heading to Israel, regardless of their nationality, and warned all international shipping companies against dealing with Israeli ports. Since then, attacks intensified and multiple commercial ships have been hit, prompting shipping companies to reroute their ships around Africa and to get into the Mediterranean Sea by the Gibraltar Strait, instead of the Suez Canal.

Let’s do a recap of this week’s events.

On Dec.9, 2023, two “lethal drones” fired from Yemen attacked the French FREMM (Frégates européennes multi-missions – European Multi Mission Frigate) FS Languedoc while it was operating in the Red Sea, said the French Minister of Armed Forces Sébastien Lecornu in a statement to the French Senate. The drones were successfully intercepted and shot down by the ship’s Aster 15 missiles.

On Dec.11, the Norwegian bio-diesel tanker Strinda was hit by an anti-ship missile, according to US officials. The FS Languedoc was patrolling the area and intervened to protect the ship as its crew brought fire under control, intercepting and destroying a drone directly threatening the Strinda. The Arleigh-Burke class guided missile destroyer USS Mason also moved to the scene, later escorting the Norwegian ship out of the threat area.

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HMS Diamond firing a Sea Viper missile to shoot down the drone over the Red Sea. (Photo: Crown Copyright)

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HMS Diamond firing a Sea Viper missile to shoot down the drone over the Red Sea. (Photo: Crown Copyright)

On Dec.13, the USS Mason shot down a Houthi-launched drone while responding to a distress call from the Marshall Islands-flagged tanker Motor Vessel Ardmore Encounter. According to the CENTCOM statement, the tanker was under attack from Houthi forces which unsuccessfully attempted to board it via skiffs, before firing two missiles against the vessel, with both missing. While responding, the USS Mason shot down a UAV launched from Houthi-controlled areas which CENTCOM says was heading directly towards the Mason and was shot down in self-defense.

On Dec.15, a Liberian-flagged ship, the container ship Al Jasrah, was hit by a Houthi-launched UAV which caused a fire. Just few hours later, another Liberian-flagged ship, the container ship MSC Palatium 3, was hit by a ballistic missile which caused a fire, while another one missed, according to CENTCOM. The USS Mason arrived in the area, responding to a mayday call from the Palatium 3.

On Dec.16, the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Carney, while in the Red Sea, successfully engaged 14 UAS launched as a drone wave from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen. According to CENTCOM’s statement, the UAS were assessed to be one-way attack drones and were shot down with no damage to ships in the area or reported injuries.

On the same day, the British Ministry of Defence said the Type 45 Destroyer HMS Diamond shot down a suspected attack drone in the Red Sea. The drone was intercepted by the ship’s Aster missiles, named Sea Viper by the Royal Navy. No other details were released, other than the fact that the HMS Diamond just arrived in the area, having transited the Suez Canal on Dec.14.

As we said at the beginning of this article, shipping companies are pausing their transits through the Red Sea or rerouting them around Africa. A Houthi spokesperson said they “plan to continue operations in order to support Palestinians in Gaza,” adding that that “enemy ships or those heading to [Israeli] ports will remain vulnerable to targeting until the aggression stops, the siege on Gaza is lifted, and humanitarian aid continues to flow into the Strip.”

The United States are continuing to work on a combined maritime force with other nations in the region. The Pentagon has, in fact, said there is a proposed maritime partnership with 39 nations to build a maritime coalition force in the Red Sea to protect ships, which however would be different from the current Combined Task Force 153, established in 2022 to focus on international maritime security in the Red Sea.

About Stefano D’Urso
Stefano D’Urso is a freelance journalist and contributor to TheAviationist based in Lecce, Italy. A graduate in Industral Engineering he’s also studying to achieve a Master Degree in Aerospace Engineering. Electronic Warfare, Loitering Munitions and OSINT techniques applied to the world of military operations and current conflicts are among his areas of expertise.

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