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Two Saudi Sailors Dead in Houthi Suicide Boat Attack

Image of a Saudi Al Madinah-class frigate shortly before being attacked by Houthi forces.

Image of a Saudi Al Madinah-class frigate shortly before being attacked by Houthi forces.

Two Royal Saudi Naval Forces sailors are dead following a Monday attack on a Saudi frigate operating in the Red Sea by Houthi forces.

The Saudi Al Madinah-class frigate was operating about 30 nautical miles from the Yemeni port of Hudaydah when it was approached by a trio of small boats.

One of the suicide boats managed to collide and detonate explosives against the hull of the frigate, a U.S. defense official told USNI News.

The collision sparked a fire on the ship that killed the two Saudi sailors and injured three others, according to a report in Al Arabiya.

Following the attack, the crew of the frigate, “dealt with the boats as necessary,” read a statement from the Saudi-led collation.

“The Saudi ship has continued its patrol duties in the area of operations, while the air force and the coalition forces’ ships continued to chase the fleeing boats to deal with them,” continued the statement.
“The command of the coalition asserts that the continuation of the Houthi militias’ use of the port of Hudaydah as a launching pad for terrorist operations is a serious development that would affect the international navigation and the flow of humanitarian and medical assistance into the port for Yemeni citizens.”

Earlier reports indicated the Saudi frigate may have been struck by an anti-ship cruise missile but a U.S. Navy official told USNI News there was no evidence one was fired at the warship.

The U.S. offered assistance but the Saudis haven’t asked for any ship support, a defense official told USNI News.

The attack on the Saudi ship comes after Houthi forces made multiple cruise missile attacks against U.S. warships in October.

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Categories: Budget Industry, Foreign Forces, News & Analysis, Surface Forces, U.S. Navy
Sam LaGrone

About Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone is the editor of USNI News. He was formerly the U.S. Maritime Correspondent for the Washington D.C. bureau of Jane’s Defence Weekly and Jane’s Navy International. He has covered legislation, acquisition and operations for the Sea Services and spent time underway with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the Canadian Navy.

  • Marcd30319

    “dealt with the boats as necessary”


  • Malakie

    Not a missile.. Anyone, like me in the US Navy can look at the video and see it is not a missile. The explosion would have been internal first off. Second the blast fire ball blows upward indicating again it was not a missile.

    What gets me is why the Saudi’s allowed small boats to get that close to them.. US Naval vessels would have sunk them before they got that close.

    • Bill

      My question exactly; how do they get close enough to ram?

    • Larry Munden

      Not in the previous farce of an administration, I don’t think Trump will leave any doubt in anybody’s mind as to what the consequences will be if they challenge us.

    • USNVO

      Without a complete report, you can’t really know why the ship let the small boat get close, but it is never easy to determine the intent of a small boat, even for the US Navy. Is a small boat trying to get close to you, just not paying attention, or doesn’t want to answer today. Only one of those is bad and it is not like there is a sign telling you what to do. For all we know, the boat could have been acting deceptively to get the ship close to the them, like sending a distress signal. In any event, it would probably not pay to be a fisherman who wasn’t paying attention near a Saudi ship in the future.

      • Malakie

        Very true.. In our case it would not have happened though.. we would swift or small boat it first.

  • Ed L

    Just like the USS Cole.

    • Murray

      There’s been a trend since 2000 with non-state entities (terrorist organisations and/or proxy forces) attacking warships in the Middle East littoral:
      1. Al-Qaeda – USS Cole, Aden, October 2000
      2. Hezbollah – INS Hanit, Lebanon, July 2006
      3. Houthi – HSV Swift & USS Mason, Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, October 2016
      4. Houthi – Saudi Al Madinah class frigate, Red Sea, January 2017
      Is this what naval warfare will look like in the 21st Century? If so, where to from here.

  • Gen. Buck Turgidson

    Take heed iran as you were warned by Flynn to day,,,The ex captain and the rats left the ship,.,its a new game

  • John B. Morgen

    The Imperial Japanese Navy used such small boats during World war II, which the United States Navy loss 12 vessels, and another 12 vessels were damaged; plus, additional three vessels were damaged by friendly fire. It is time that our warships must be fitted with additional smaller armaments; such as 25mm guns. We should not allow such small craft get within ? so many yards from our warships, if they do then we should blow them out from the water—period! What happen to the Saudi warship is a lesson that we should take note, and what we should be expecting from now on in the region.