Home » Budget Industry » Pentagon: Oil Tanker Hit by 3 RPGs Near Yemen in the Bab el-Mandeb Strait

Pentagon: Oil Tanker Hit by 3 RPGs Near Yemen in the Bab el-Mandeb Strait

M/V Muskie

Undated photo of M/V Muskie. MarineTraffic.com Photo

An oil tanker was hit by three rocket-propelled grenades fired from militants in skiffs last week in a little-reported incident, which took place near where U.S warships came under fire from Yemen-based Houthi militants last year, Navy officials told USNI News on Tuesday.
The Marshall Islands-flagged crude tanker M/V Muskie was hit by the RPGs from two skiffs as it transited through the Bab el-Mandeb Strait on May 31 entering the Red Sea, an official told USNI News.

“The vessel’s master reported that his vessel was fired upon by three rocket-propelled grenades, before the assailants broke off the attack,” reads a statement from the European Union Naval Force.

Maritime news service Splash24/7 reported the ship suffered damage to the superstructure before moving away from the scene. As of Tuesday, Muskie was operating in the Red Sea off the coast of Saudi Arabia.

“EU NAVFOR has not received any information that confirms that piracy-related tripwires/equipment were observed during the attack,” spokesperson Cmdr. Jacqui Sherriff said in the May 31 statement by EU NAVFOR.
“This indicates that the incident is more probably related to the continuing instability at sea off the coast of Yemen.”

While there’s no definitive evidence, U.S. officials suspect Houthi rebels in the attack on Muskie.

The attack is near where Houthi rebels fired on U.S. warships operating near the Bab el-Mandeb with anti-ship cruise missiles believed to be supplied by Iran, in an incident that took place in October.

Houthi rebels also attacked a United Arab Emirates-leased transport vessel and Royal Saudi Navy frigate operating in the Red Sea with a bomb-laden remote-controlled boat.

Since the attacks on the U.S. ships last year, the Navy has maintained an almost-constant presence in the region with a U.S. guided-missile destroyer and cruiser on station near the Bab el-Mandeb.

  • If they’re close enough to use RPG’s, they’re close enough to eat 50 BMG’s

    • publius_maximus_III

      Thank you for your service, Judge, twice — once in the trench, once on the bench. My wife works for a federal district court judge, now on senior status but still a very active case load. He’s also a USN vet. Nothing but respect for you guys.

      • Thank you for the regards, I hold mine for the constituents who entrusted me with protecting them… My respects for your wife’s dedication. Working for a Judge can be a real pain… 😉

    • Secundius

      Minimum Arming distance for a RPG is 5-meters, but Lethal Blast Radius is 150-meters. I don’t suspect that any Would Be Pirate is going to get that close. Speedboat couldn’t Outrun the Blast Wave of the Detonation of RPG’s Warhead…

    • Ed L

      now if there had been say a dozen RPG’s fired at or near the waterline that would have had effect

  • publius_maximus_III

    Fight fire with fire — an RPG fired from the height advantage of the freeboard on a tanker would have greater range. It would also have far more devestating consequences to such small craft than the opposite effect. Simple self defense. Swat that fly.

    • Scott Ferguson

      I suggest you try firing an RPG.

      It’s an unguided rocket that’s easily affected by wind.

      Automatic cannons or .50 cal machine guns would be far more practical.

      • publius_maximus_III

        Is it anything like a bottle rocket in a piece of conduit tubing? I used to be pretty good when I was a kid, as long as I had a lighter/loader.

  • John B. Morgen

    Harassment tactics to discourage anyone from using the strait, it would have taken a lot more RPGs to really damage a large tanker..The Navy should assigned two or three LCS for patrol duty in the contested water-way.

    • NavySubNuke

      Once (if?) we have two or three LCS operational at the same time and ready for deployment we just might. Unfortunately given the rate at which the LCS engines eat themselves that probably won’t happen for at least a decade.

      • John B. Morgen

        Second thought assigned three DDGs, instead of three LCSs. Most likely the LCSs would most likely sink themselves before being hit by RPGs.

    • Donald Carey

      Targeting the superstructure, yes. A lucky hit to the piping above the deck that sets the ship on fire is another thing altogether.

      • John B. Morgen

        If the oil tankers have fire suppression equipment, then there is really no problem of fighting off fires.

        • Donald Carey

          Assuming the equipment works, yes, but we all know what happens when one assumes…

          • John B. Morgen

            All merchantmen operate in American waters are required to meet Coast Guard safety requirements.

          • Donald Carey

            And you know this ship, flagged in the Marshal Islands, was certified to operate in U.S. water? Right!

          • Secundius

            Thou a Territory of the United States, and protected by the United Sates. The Marshal Islands, American Samoa, Guam and Puerto Rico are Semi-Autonomous Governments. And have their own Laws, which at Times conflict with American Laws…

          • John B. Morgen

            I would hope so for this ship has its papers in order.

  • Western

    Sigh, another day, another terrorist attack from small boats.
    Equip the merchant ships with a military drone. When the captain determines he is under attack, he launches the drone, which targets the terrorists and remains at a high orbit on low speed while waiting to be slaved to the control of a Navy ship. The drone follows the terrorists back to their mother ship or home port, targeting information is relayed and…film at 11.

  • Centaurus

    I suggest that a small Tactical Nuke be fed to them for breakfast. Hmm, perhaps the collateral blast wave might heat that precious oil we don’t need anymore.

  • Ed L

    Merchant Vessels use to carry small arms/machine guns and even small cannon until World War 2. Then for some reason it stop with the British leading the charge. During the WW2, the concept of an self armed merchant was surplanted by Naval Gun Crews to run the weapons

    • Secundius

      After Hostilities ended for the United States in 31 December 1946, who was the Naval Threat?/! The Soviet Navy was virtually nonexistent and the US Navy had some 71,009-Ships of Various Classes in the Fleet. What need was there for an Armed Merchant Fleet…