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Pentagon: Airstrikes Degraded Houthis' Ability to Attack Ships

Yahya Saree
Houthi missile and drone systems on parade (File image courtesy Yahya Saree / Houthi Military Media)

Published Jan 23, 2024 5:31 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Pentagon believes that yesterday's joint strikes against Houthi rebel forces were successful, a spokesman said in a statement Tuesday. The U.S. and UK hit eight Houthi air defense and antiship missile sites in an attack overnight Monday, attempting to reduce the group's capacity to attack shipping in the Red Sea. 

Battle damage assessments are ongoing, but the Department of Defense and its international partners "assess that the latest strikes were successful in further degrading Houthi capabilities." Australia, Bahrain, Canada and the Netherlands supported the strikes, the Pentagon said. 

"These precision strikes are intended to disrupt and degrade the capabilities that the Houthis use to threaten global trade . . . including anti-ship ballistic missile and unmanned aerial system attacks that struck two U.S.-owned merchant vessels," said the six partner nations in a statement. 

In a brief response, Houthi spokesman Yahya Saree said that "these attacks will not go unanswered and unpunished." 

Foreign assistance

A defense official said that the allied forces are particularly concerned by the Houthis' use of anti-ship ballistic missiles, which he described as "unprecedented." Ballistic missiles have a parabolic flight path rather than the horizontal flight used by cruise missiles. Only a few nations have adapted ballistic missile guidance systems for antiship applications.

The technology behind Houthi attacks is widely believed to be Iranian in origin. Multiple Iranian weapons shipments to Yemen have been intercepted over the years, including missile component shipments. Reuters reports that Iran likely has advisors on the ground in Yemen, helping to select targets and direct the attacks in the Red Sea. The U.S. and UK have both publicly assessed that Iran is deeply involved in Houthi operations.

Last week, U.S. President Joe Biden acknowledged that the Houthis' antiship capabilities will not be neutralized overnight. “Are [the strikes] stopping the Houthis? No. Are they going to continue? Yes,” he told Reuters.