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16 Dec 2023

NextImg:Navy Shoots Down Suspected Houthi Attack Drone Over Red Sea

British air warfare destroyer downs suspected Houthi drone over the Red Sea, as repeated attempts to attack merchant ships in the critical waterway continue.

The British Minister of Defence Grant Shapps has stated Royal Navy warship HMS Diamond engaged and shot down a “suspected attack drone” in the Red Sea, the channel which links Europe by the Suez Canal and the Indian Ocean and which is bordered by Yemen to the East and Africa to the West. The sea narrows at the Bab-el Mandeb in the south, one of a handful of strategic straits worldwide through which much of the globe’s commerce and energy flows, and the closure of which to piracy or intense attack could deal a massive blow to Western economies.

Shapps said the drone was “targeting shipping in the Red Sea” and was downed by Diamond overnight, which engaged the target with a Sea Viper missile. The target was “destroyed”, he said.

The Associated Press

This is a locator map for Yemen with its capital, Sanaa. (AP Photo)

The Sea Viper is the British name for the Anglo-French-Italian PAAMS anti-air interceptor missile system, combining Aster missiles and the SAMPSON guidance system, which by the Royal Navy’s own reckoning can track 1,000 targets at once, and up to 250 miles away. Engagements to take down targets can be up to around 70 miles from the launching ship.

The minister’s statement spoke of the attempts to interfere with global commerce in the Red Sea in recent weeks, which Shapps said were a “direct threat to international commerce and maritime security”. He concluded: “The UK remains committed to repelling these attacks to protect the free flow of global trade.”

While the origin of the drone has not yet been confirmed, shipping in the area has been coming under increasingly intense attack by Iranian-backed Shiite Islamist Houthi militias in recent weeks. While the attacks started — allegedly — in solidarity with Gaza after Hamas launched its terrorist attack against Israel, the attacks have progressed to being generally anti-commerce.

One of the primary doctrinal purposes of Britain’s Royal Navy is protecting global trade, without which the extremely import-dependent West would suffer.

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HMS Diamond has only recently deployed to the region and the strike against the drone follows a similar defensive action by U.S. Aegis destroyer USS Mason which shot down a Houthi drone attempting to attack a tanker carrying jet fuel through the Gulf of Aden on the other side of the Bab-el-Mandeb last week.

While the number of warships in the area protecting merchant shipping is increasing, the frequency of attacks means, inevitably, some are getting through. As reported, a German-operated container ship was struck by a projectile this week, which hit the ship with sufficient force to send some containers crashing overboard.

There has also been a successful missile attack against a Norwegian tanker in the area, and a large car cargo transporter was seized by Houthi militias.

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