US, allies shoot down 28 Houthi drones in large Red Sea skirmish

American, British and French forces took out a "large-scale" attack targeting commercial and military ships in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden
Nicholas Slayton Avatar
The M/V True Confidence after it was hit by a Houthi missile, killing three on March 6, 2024. (Photo courtesy CENTCOM)

American, British and French forces shot down 28 one-way attack drones launched by the Houthi movement overnight and Saturday morning. It was one of the largest incidents over the Red Sea since Houthi attacks on ships in the waters off of Yemen began five months ago. 

The three navies shot down at least 28 aerial drones over the course of a little more than four hours in the early morning of Saturday, March 9, according to U.S. Central Command. The drones targeted the Singapore-owned and flagged merchant vessel Propel Fortune, according to the Houthis. 

Earlier on Saturday, CENTCOM said it was responding to a “large-scale uncrewed aerial vehicle (UAV) attack into the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.” The U.S.-led coalition took action after determining that the drone attack “presented an imminent threat to merchant vessels” as well as coalition ships, CENTCOM said. The drones were taken out through a combination of ship-based weapons and aircraft. 

Yahya Sarea, the Houthi military spokesman, claimed that the group launched 37 drones at both American ships and commercial vessels and that the operation was a success. CENTCOM initially claimed to have shot down 15 drones, but revised the number up to 28 and said that no ship was damaged.

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The skirmish comes only a few days after a Houthi missile hit the Barbados-flagged shipping vessel True Confidence, killing two Filipino sailors and one Vietnamese sailor. They were the first deaths to come from the attacks on ships in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. France said it destroyed four Houthi drones while working to escort the damaged True Confidence to safer waters. The Houthi movement says it is targeting commercial and military vessels in response to Israel’s war in Gaza. Last month the British-owned cargo ship Rubymar was damaged by a Houthi attack and now has almost completely sunk. The attack resulted in a large oil spill that leaked from the ship. 

Despite several rounds of large bombing campaigns on Houthi-controlled regions in Yemen and multiple “self-defense” strikes on launch sites in Yemen, U.S. and coalition forces have not deterred Houthis from launching attacks nor degraded their ability to do so. In January and February the United States and United Kingdom launched several airstrikes on major cities and ports in Yemen, including the capital city of Sana’a. The Houthi movement controls the largest population centers of Yemen, having taken control of them during the country’s civil war. 

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