On December 16, 2023, a Royal Navy warship, HMS Diamond, successfully shot down a suspected attack drone over the Red Sea. The drone was believed to be targeting commercial ships in the area. The defense secretary, Grant Shapps, confirmed that the warship fired a Sea Viper missile to destroy the drone. This incident marks the first time the Royal Navy has shot down an aerial target since the Gulf War in 1991. The U.S. military also reported that the destroyer USS Carney had engaged and destroyed 14 unmanned aerial systems launched from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen. The drones were shot down without causing any damage to ships or injuries.
The Houthi rebels in Yemen have been launching attacks on vessels in the Red Sea, which is one of the busiest shipping routes in the world. They have also targeted Israel with drones and missiles, during the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict. The threat to global trade has increased as container ships and oil tankers flagged to countries like Norway and Liberia have come under attack or faced missile fire while transiting through the waterway between Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.
In response to these attacks, the Royal Navy, along with vessels from the U.S., France, and other countries, has been deployed to the region as a deterrent. The U.K. defense secretary emphasized that these attacks on commercial ships pose a direct threat to international commerce and maritime security. He stated that the U.K. remains committed to protecting the free flow of global trade.
The escalation of attacks on commercial ships has led shipping companies to take precautions. French container shipping line CMA CGM Group has ordered all its vessels scheduled to pass through the Red Sea to pause their journey in safe waters. Maersk, the world's largest shipping company, and German-based shipper Hapag-Lloyd have also temporarily halted their container ship traffic through the Red Sea.
The situation in the Red Sea remains tense, with ongoing conflicts and the potential for further attacks. The international community, including the Royal Navy and other naval forces, continues to monitor the situation and take necessary measures to safeguard commercial shipping and maintain maritime security in the region.