U.S. Navy Helo Crews Kill Houthi Assault Boat Teams After Red Sea Attack

December 31, 2023 5:43 AM - Updated: December 31, 2023 11:57 AM
An MH-60S Knight Hawk helicopter, attached to the ‘Dusty Dogs’ of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 7, escorts U.S. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technicians to conduct helicopter rope suspension drills aboard guided-missile destroyer USS Gravely (DDG-107) in the Persian Gulf Dec. 5, 2023. US Navy Photo

This post has been updated with a statement from the Houthis

Ten Houthi fighters are dead after attempted attacks on U.S. Navy forces and a merchant ship in the Red Sea, U.S. Central Command announced early Sunday morning.

The Houthis, embarking from Yemen, were attempting to seize MV Maersk Hangzhou and approached the container ship in four small boats.

“The small boats, originating from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen, fired crew served and small arms weapons at the MAERSK HANGZHOU, getting to within 20 meters of the vessel, and attempted to board the vessel,” reads the statement.

Helicopters from destroyer USS Gravely (DDG-107) and aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) responded to a distress call from the Singapore-flagged merchant ship and came under fire from the Houthi attackers, reads the statement from CENTCOM.

The helicopter crews returned fire and sunk three of the four boats killing their crews. The fourth boat broke off and left the area, according to the statement.

In a statement following an earlier version of this post, Houthi spokesman, Brig. Gen. Yahya Saree said ten Houthis died in the attack.

“The American enemy forces attacked three boats belonging to the Yemeni naval forces, which led to the martyrdom and loss of ten members of the naval forces,” reads a translation of the statement posted on Telegram.
“[American] military movements in the Red Sea to protect Israeli ships will not prevent Yemen from performing its religious, moral, and humanitarian duty in support and victory for the oppressed in Palestine.”

The attack on the Danish-owned merchant ship is the second in less than a day after the Maersk Hangzhou was hit with an anti-ship ballistic missile launched from Yemen on Saturday.

Gravely and U.S. destroyer USS Laboon(DDG-58) responded to a distress call from the container ship on Saturday.

Gravely shot down two-subsequent anti-ship ballistic missiles fired at the ships in what CENTCOM said was the 23rd attack against merchant shipping in the Red Sea.

Since Oct. 17, the Iranian-backed Houthi forces have targeted ships in the Red Sea they say have connections with Israel in solidarity with Hamas following the ongoing conflict in Southern Israel sparked by the Oct. 7 attacks.

Until Sunday, U.S. forces had intercepted missile and suicide drone attacks on merchant ships without attacking Houthi forces directly.

The following is the complete statement from U.S. Central Command.

On Dec. 31 at 6:30am (Sanaa time) the container ship MAERSK HANGZHOU issued a second distress call in less than 24 hours reporting being under attack by four Iranian-backed Houthi small boats. The small boats, originating from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen, fired crew served and small arms weapons at the MAERSK HANGZHOU, getting to within 20 meters of the vessel, and attempted to board the vessel. A contract embarked security team on the MAERSK HANZGHOU returned fire. U.S. helicopters from the USS EISENHOWER (CVN 69) and GRAVELY (DDG 107) responded to the distress call and in the process of issuing verbal calls to the small boats, the small boats fired upon the U.S. helicopters with crew served weapons and small arms. The U.S. Navy helicopters returned fire in self-defense, sinking three of the four small boats, and killing the crews. The fourth boat fled the area. There was no damage to U.S. personnel or equipment.

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone is the editor of USNI News. He has covered legislation, acquisition and operations for the Sea Services since 2009 and spent time underway with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the Canadian Navy.
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