Ongoing attempts by Houthis to challenge US Navy in Red Sea face military reality


The US Navy will continue to collaborate with allies and partners to bolster maritime security in the region and to deter any state or non-state actor from escalating tensions.

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Recent events in the Red Sea have highlighted how the Houthis are no match for the US Navy in the strategic waterway.

Tensions have escalated in the past few weeks after the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen started attacking ships crossing the key conduit for world trade.

While the attacks have temporarily disrupted traffic on the trade route, the overall results show the Houthis are not a serious, long-term threat in the Red Sea as the US Navy has been able to thwart nearly all the group's attacks.

The sinking of three Houthi boats on December 31 highlighted the obvious mismatch.

An F/A-18E fighter jet during flight operations aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower. [CENTCOM]
An F/A-18E fighter jet during flight operations aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower. [CENTCOM]
US Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal technicians conduct helicopter rope suspension drills aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Gravely (DDG 107) in the Arabian Gulf on December 5. [US Navy]
US Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal technicians conduct helicopter rope suspension drills aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Gravely (DDG 107) in the Arabian Gulf on December 5. [US Navy]

US Navy helicopters that day fired on Houthi fighters attempting to board a cargo ship off Yemen, sinking three of their boats.

US Central Command (CENTCOM) said the USS Gravely destroyer first downed two anti-ship ballistic missiles fired at the Singapore-flagged, Denmark-owned/operated container ship Maersk Hangzhou on December 30.

The vessel had reported being hit by a missile earlier that evening as it sailed through the southern Red Sea, en route from Singapore to Egypt's Port Suez.

Four small boats originating from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen then attacked the same cargo ship with small arms fire on December 31 and Houthi fighters tried to board the vessel, the US Navy said.

A security team on the vessel returned fire.

US helicopters from the USS Eisenhower and Gravely responded to the distress call, CENTCOM said.

"In the process of issuing verbal calls to the small boats, the small boats fired upon the US helicopters," it added.

"The US Navy helicopters returned fire in self-defense, sinking three of the four small boats, and killing the crews. The fourth boat fled the area," it said.

Ten Houthi gunmen were reportedly killed.

Other attacks have followed a similar pattern.

On January 2, the Houthis fired two missiles toward merchant ships traveling near Bab al-Mandeb, the US military said.

"Multiple commercial ships in the area reported the impact of the anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBMs) into the surrounding water though none have reported any damage," US Central Command (CENTCOM) said in a statement on X.

Earlier on December 28, the USS Mason shot down a Houthi-launched drone and anti-ship ballistic missile in the southern Red Sea.

There was no damage to any of the 18 ships in the area or reported injuries, CENTCOM said.

US forces on December 26 shot down 12 one-way attack drones, three anti-ship ballistic missiles and two land attack cruise missiles in the southern Red Sea that were fired by the Houthis over a 10-hour period.

Overall, the Houthis have carried out at least two dozen illegal attacks on international shipping since mid-October.

The Houthis' attacks have jeopardized the movement of critical food, fuel and humanitarian assistance throughout the world.

"Ongoing Houthi attacks in the Red Sea are illegal, unacceptable, and profoundly destabilizing," read a January 3 joint statement issued by the governments of the United States, Australia, Bahrain, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Singapore, and the United Kingdom.

"There is no lawful justification for intentionally targeting civilian shipping and naval vessels," it read, adding that these attacks "are a direct threat to the freedom of navigation that serves as the bedrock of global trade in one of the world’s most critical waterways."

"These attacks threaten innocent lives from all over the world and constitute a significant international problem that demands collective action."

US deployments

Several US Navy destroyers from both the USS Gerald R. Ford and Eisenhower Carrier Strike Groups (CSGs) have been deployed to the Red Sea, where they have brought down Houthi drones and missiles.

The Eisenhower remains deployed to the Middle East and is in the Gulf of Aden east of Yemen, while the Ford will leave the eastern Mediterranean Sea in "coming days," the US Navy announced on January 1.

Sent to "contribute to our regional deterrence and defense posture," the Ford carrier will "redeploy to its home port as scheduled to prepare for future deployments," the Navy said in a statement.

"The Department of Defense continually evaluates force posture globally and will retain extensive capability both in the Mediterranean and across the Middle East," the statement added.

The Navy said it was "collaborating with allies and partners to bolster maritime security in the region."

It noted that the Defense Department will continue to rely on the presence of its forces in the region -- including the Eisenhower CSG -- "to deter any state or non-state actor" from escalating tensions.

A senior US official told ABC News that even with the Ford's departure, the United States will still have extensive military capability and flexibility in the region, including the deployment of additional cruisers and destroyers in the Middle East.

The Eisenhower is on station off the coast of Yemen, a defense official confirmed to USNI News December 28.

Guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea and guided-missile destroyers USS Gravely and USS Stethem are accompanying the Eisenhower, according to USNI News.

The Eisenhower CSG comprises Carrier Air Wing 3, USS Philippine Sea and Destroyer Squadron 22 (DESRON-22), which itself includes the USS Gravely and USS Mason.

The USS Carney and USS Laboon have also been reported to be operating in the Red Sea region.

In the last week of 2023, the amphibious assault ships USS Bataan and USS Carter Hall arrived in the eastern Mediterranean from the Red Sea to reunite with the USS Mesa Verde.

The move reunited the three ships that had originally deployed together in July, as well as the 2,200 US Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) aboard the ships.

CENTCOM announced in November that an Ohio-class submarine -- later confirmed to be the USS Florida -- has arrived in its area of responsibility.

Houthi links to Iran

The United States on December 29 accused Iran of close involvement in the Houthis' attacks on commercial ships, publicly releasing US intelligence as evidence.

The White House said that Tehran has provided drones and missiles to the Houthis as well as tactical intelligence, AFP reported.

"We know that Iran was deeply involved in planning the operations against commercial vessels in the Red Sea," National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said.

"We have no reason to believe that Iran is trying to dissuade the Houthis from this reckless behavior," she said.

The White House said that US visual analysis found nearly identical features shared by Iran's KAS-04 drones and the unmanned vehicles launched by the Houthis, as well as consistent features shared by Iranian and Houthi missiles.

The Houthis are also reliant on Iranian-provided monitoring systems at sea, the White House said.

"Iranian-provided tactical intelligence has been critical in enabling Houthi targeting of maritime vessels since the group commenced attacks in November," Watson said.

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The colonisers always justifies to themselves what they deny others. When Houthis prevented vessels that were bound to the port of Umm Rashrash in solidarity with Gaza, the entire world was against it. They say that Iran is supplying Houthis with weapons. So what?! America, England, France, Germany, Italy, Australia, Canada and other colonial states are supplying the Zionist entity with weapons, foods, and everything. At least, Houthis’ weapons are not as capable as US-made weapons that were brought on US aircraft carriers, including USS Dwight Eisenhower and USS Gerald Ford and other US weapons as if they’re fighting against a super power! England also brought its navy. Those states are war criminals.


For Palestine, we will die for Palestine to live!


No pause until the genocide in Gaza is stopped and assistance is allowed in. It's America that is militarising the Red Sea and bearing responsibility.


We're the Yemenis!


Hypocrisy is worse than infidelity. The bottom of hell is like the fall of a rock over a period of 70 years. This is the bottom of hell that never fills up with infidels and hypocrites.


The response will come ... The sea is between us and America, and we shall see who will prevail in the end.


I'm not interested in such a story.