Houthis deploy sea drone in response to US, allies' warning

In recent developments, an armed unmanned surface vessel (USV) launched from Houthi-controlled Yemen approached U.S. Navy and commercial vessels in the Red Sea before detonating. This incident occurred just hours after the White House, along with several partner nations, issued a "final warning" to the Iran-backed Houthi rebels to cease their attacks or potentially face military action.

Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, who heads U.S. Navy operations in the Middle East, stated that this was the first time the Houthis had used a USV since their harassment of commercial ships began after the Israel-Hamas war outbreak. However, they have utilized these vessels in previous battles against the Saudi coalition forces in Yemen's war. Fabian Hinz, a missile expert, noted that these USVs are an integral part of the Houthi maritime arsenal and are often used as suicide drone boats that explode upon impact. It is likely that most of these vessels are assembled in Yemen but equipped with components made in Iran.

Since late October, the Houthis have launched numerous one-way attack drones and missiles at commercial vessels transiting the Red Sea. U.S. Navy warships have intercepted ballistic missiles intended for Israel, successfully shooting down a total of 61 missiles and drones. In response to these attacks, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced Operation Prosperity Guardian in December. This operation involves additional ships from the United States and other countries providing protection for commercial vessels passing through the Bab el-Mandeb Strait. Since its initiation, around 1,500 commercial ships have been able to transit safely.

Despite the implementation of Operation Prosperity Guardian, the Houthi rebels continue to launch missiles and attack drones. In response, the White House, along with 12 allies, issued a final warning to the rebels, urging them to cease their attacks on vessels in the Red Sea or potentially face targeted military action. Vice Admiral Cooper clarified that Operation Prosperity Guardian is defensive in nature and separate from any potential military action the U.S. might take if the Houthi attacks persist.

Currently, the U.S., United Kingdom, and France are primarily providing warships for Operation Prosperity Guardian, with Greece and Denmark also contributing vessels. The situation in the Red Sea remains tense, with both sides engaged in a conflict that shows no signs of immediate resolution.


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