The U.S. and the United Kingdom conducted a series of strikes on Houthi targets in Yemen Thursday in retaliation for nearly three months of attacks on commercial shipping in the Middle East.
Strikes came from the air, surface and subsurface, a defense official told USNI News Thursday. Air Force strike fighters originating from a base in the Middle East and Super Hornets from USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) were involved, USNI News understands. The U.S. also launched Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles launched from ships in the Red Sea and at least one submarine, as well. U.S. officials would not identify the submarine, but Ohio-class guided-missile submarine USS Florida (SSGN-728) entered the Red Sea in November. Florida can carry up to 154 Tomahawk missiles.
The strike was at approximately 2:30 a.m. local time, about 30 minutes after the Houthis launched an anti-ship ballistic missile at shipping lanes in the Gulf of Aden, according to a Central Command release.
On Jan. 11 at 2:30 a.m. (Sanaa time), U.S. Central Command forces, in coordination with the United Kingdom, and support from Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, and Bahrain conducted joint strikes on Houthi targets to degrade their capability to continue their illegal and… pic.twitter.com/bR8biMolSx
— U.S. Central Command (@CENTCOM) January 12, 2024
U.K. Secretary of State for Defence Grant Shapps said on social media site X that four Royal Air Force Typhoon FGR4s conducted precision strikes on two Houthi military targets.
One of the targets was in Bani, located in northwestern Yemen, which Houthi used to launch attack and reconnaissance drones. Aircraft targeted a number of buildings at the site, the U.K. Ministry of Defence said in a statement.
The other site was an airfield at Abbs, Yemen. The Ministry of Defence said that the Houthis have used the airfield to launch cruise missiles and drones.
The U.S. hit 60 targets at 16 Houthi locations, which included munition depots, command nodes, production facilities, air defense radar systems and launching systems, U.S. Air Forces Central said in a release.
“This multi-national strike reinforces the international community’s commitment to freedom of navigation and against repeated Houthi anti-ship ballistic missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles, and cruise missiles attacks on commercial and U.S. and coalition military vessels in the Red Sea,” reads the release.
The U.S. and U.K. were supported by Australia, Bahrain, Canada and the Netherlands, a senior administration official said Thursday.
As of 8:30 p.m. Thursday, the U.S. is not tracking any Houthi response to the strikes, a senior military official told reporters. The attack was separate from Operation Prosperity Guardian, which is a defensive partnership to protect shipping in the Red Sea.
This is the first time the U.S. has attacked the Houthis since the Yemen-based group started launching drones and missiles into the Red Sea.
“This was a significant action,” the senior administration official said. “And conducted with every objective and every expectation it will degrade in a significant way the Houthis capability launch exactly the sorts of attacks that they have conducted over the period of recent weeks.”
The senior military official on the press call could not give details about damage from the strikes.
The strikes targeted sites that the U.S. determined were associated with the Houthis’ drone, missile and surveillance capabilities, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said in a statement. Follow-up actions could be taken if needed, according to the statement.
“This action is intended to disrupt and degrade the Houthis’ capabilities to endanger mariners and threaten global trade in one of world’s most critical waterways,” Austin said in the statement. “Today’s coalition action sends a clear message to the Houthis that they will bear further costs if they do not end their illegal attacks.”
The Houthi actions in the Red Sea have been destabilizing and dangerous, U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said in a statement.
“This cannot stand,” Sunak said in his statement. “The United Kingdom will always stand up for freedom of navigation and the free flow of trade. We have therefore taken limited, necessary and proportionate action in self-defence, alongside the United States with non-operational support from the Netherlands, Canada and Bahrain against targets tied to these attacks, to degrade Houthi military capabilities and protect global shipping.”
The Houthis launched the 27th attack on commercial shipping since Nov. 19 on Thursday, U.S. Central Command said in a statement on social media site X. The Houthis fired an anti-ship ballistic missile at shipping lanes in the Gulf of Aden. One commercial vessel said it saw the missile fall into the water. No injuries or damages to ships were reported.
The Houthis also launched drones, anti-ship cruise and anti-ship ballistic missiles at international shipping lanes in the Red Sea on Tuesday.
USS Laboon (DDG-58), USS Gravely (DDG-107), USS Mason (DDG-87) and F/A-18 Super Hornet from Eisenhower (CVN-69), along with the United Kingdom Royal Navy’s HMS Diamond (D34), shot down 18 one-way attack unmanned aerial vehicles, two anti-ship cruise missiles and one anti-ship ballistic missile.
Tuesday’s attack was one of the largest attacks in the Red Sea in recent months, and the missiles and drones were launched directly against U.S. ships, a senior administration official told reporters Thursday. This is the first time that the attacks in the U.S. have been classified as targeting U.S. ships.
Pentagon Press Secretary Maj. Gen. Patrick Ryder told reporters Thursday that the U.S. ships and aircraft shot down the drones and missiles in self-defense, but he did not say that the ships were targeted.
“And so as an attack drone, or as a missile comes within the threat range of a US military vessel, or in a crowded international shipping lane, they have — those vessels — have the right– those crews — have the right to defend themselves,” Ryder said. “And shoot first, ask questions later in terms of protecting protecting lives.”
While Central Command is counting attacks on shipping since Nov. 19, the Houthis started the attacks on Oct. 19, when the group fired three land-attack missiles and a number of drones, which USS Carney (DDG-64) shot down with SM-2s, USNI News reported.
The U.S., along with 12 allies, sent a warning to the Houthis to stop firing upon ships in the Red Sea. The Houthis said they would attack any ship affiliated with Israel or heading to or from the country. The Houthis have also warned that they will respond to the death of 10 Houthis killed by helicopter crew from Eisenhower and Gravely returning fire.
While the Houthis have said they are attacking ships with some Israel connection, the senior administration official said that it is false.
“They are firing indiscriminately on vessels with global ties,” the senior administration official said. “Most of the ships that have come under attack have nothing whatsoever to do with Israel. And even if they were, even if that were not the case, it is no justification for these illegal attacks in international waterways.”