March Red Sea recap: Navy keeps up with steady pace of Houthi attacks

by Vern Evans

The Navy responded to a regular stream of engagements with Iran-backed Houthi militants in the Middle East over the last month, including the first fatal strike on a commercial ship by the Yemen-based group.

Go here for Navy Times’ up-to-date tracker of incidents between the U.S. Navy and the Houthis.

Compared to the month prior, the Navy reportedly engaged this month with a larger number of anti-ship ballistic missiles and air drones, but fewer surface drones and no reported land attack cruise missiles.

On Wednesday and Thursday, an unidentified Navy warship took out four Houthi air attack drones each day that had the American vessels in their sights, according to U.S. Central Command.

Navy leaders have noted how the Red Sea battles are the first time that anti-ship ballistic missiles have been used in conflict.

As of the end of March, U.S. and coalition forces destroyed, or tracked the firing, or the intent to launch, of at least 30 anti-ship ballistic missiles, six anti-ship cruise missiles, 10 surface drones, 72 air drones, one underwater drone, six weapon storage containers and 41 other surface-to-air and anti-ship missiles, according to a tally of incidents announced by CENTCOM, as well as reporting by Military Times and The Associated Press.

These were ordnance that the Houthis launched or were prepared to fire.

This past month also saw the first fatal strike by the Houthis in their campaign of assaults, which they have tied to the ongoing conflict occurring in Gaza despite many of the targeted ships possessing no connection to Israel or the United States. On March 6, the Iran-backed group launched an anti-ship ballistic missile from Yemen at a Liberian-owned bulk carrier in the Gulf of Aden, killing three of its crew members and injuring several others.

“These reckless attacks by the Iran-backed Houthis have not only disrupted global trade and commerce but also taken the lives of international seafarers simply doing their jobs,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during a briefing.

March also saw the first Houthi attack on a Chinese oil tanker, in which CENTCOM said a ballistic missile fired toward the ship caused it to suffer damage.

“I can’t say that they knew or didn’t know that that was a Chinese ship or flagged. What I can say is that we saw very publicly that they’ve said that they were not going to attack PRC or Russian ships and yet, they did,” Department of Defense deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh said during a Pentagon briefing earlier this month.

As the U.S. attempts to deter further Houthi aggression, clashes also continue at home over President Joe Biden’s authority to continue the military campaign against the Houthis without more say from Congress, The Associated Press reported.

Meanwhile, the Department of the Treasury recently announced sanctions against a Houthi financial facilitator.

Jonathan is a staff writer and editor of the Early Bird Brief newsletter for Military Times. Follow him on Twitter @lehrfeld_media



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