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Navy destroyer shoots down 14 drones as US mulls Red Sea task force

Two attacks this week are the latest in three months of attempts by Houthis in Yemen to disrupt shipping in the Red Sea.
Nicholas Slayton Avatar
The guided-missile destroyer USS Carney. (Photo courtesy U.S. Navy)

The USS Carney once again shot down multiple drones launched from Yemen earlier today.

The U.S. Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, operating in the Red Sea, engaged a drone swarm launched from parts of Yemen controlled by Houthi rebels, according to U.S. Central Command. The engagement took place early on Saturday, Dec. 16 local time. 

CENTCOM did not elaborate on the details, including what the likely targets were, or how long the engagement lasted. 

The USS Carney’s action came a day after Houthis launched a drone and a missile respectively at a pair of commercial ships traveling through the Red Sea. The MSC Alanya, flying under a Liberian flag, was directed by Houthis to turn south to the end of the sea. The ship continued heading north, in contact with the U.S. Two hours later, a single UAV launched from Yemen hit another Liberian-flagged ship, the Al Jasrah, and struck the ship, starting a fire. Midday on Friday, CENTCOM said that two ballistic missiles were sent toward the Bab al-Mandeb Strait. It hit the Liberian-flagged MV Palatium 3, starting another fire. The USS Mason answered its mayday call. However, no one was injured in these attacks, according to CENTCOM. 

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The Houthis, a Yemeni rebel group that seized control of the capital Sana’a and much of the country and currently is fighting the U.S.-recognized government and Saudi Arabia, has been launching several UAVs and missiles over the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden in recent months. Some have been directed toward Israel, others have gone in the general direction of American ships. The Houthi government has said its intention is to block Israeli-linked shipping vessels from conducting business. 

The USS Carney’s actions on Saturday are the third time in as many months that the destroyer has engaged missiles or drones in the region. In October, the ship shot down several drones and missiles fired from Yemen over several hours. Earlier in December it shot down more missiles while coming to assist different commercial vessels. 

The rise of attacks in the Red Sea is leading some shipping companies to consider alternate routes. This week Danish shipping company Maersk announced it would stop sending vessels through the Bab al-Mandeb Strait that links the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden. German container shipping firm Hapag-Lloyd said that it would suspend transit through the route until Monday, Dec. 18. 

Earlier this month National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said that the United States was in talks with allies about forming a coalition task force to patrol the Red Sea and keeping shipping lanes open. However, nothing has been formally announced. A Defense official told Task & Purpose in a statement that “Right now we are ensuring there are sufficient assets where required to deter threats to international maritime trade. I can’t speak at this time on specifics, in keeping with longstanding DoD policy on discussing current or future operations.”

If the U.S. does so, it will be the second time it’s taken such an effort this year in response to attacks on commercial ships. This summer, in response to reported attempts by Iran to seize commercial vessels in the Strait of Hormuz, the U.S. sent additional aircraft, personnel and ships to the area around the strait, which connects the Persian Gulf with the Gulf of Oman. Iran, which supports the Houthis, has accused the U.S. of trying to seize Iranian ships. Some of the ships sent this summer were repositioned around the Middle East after the outbreak of the war in Gaza. 

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