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U.S. Strikes Multiple Houthi Bomb Boats and Antiship Missiles

Flight deck of USS Eisenhower
A fighter prepares to launch from the deck of the carrier USS Eisenhower, February 3 (USN)

Published Feb 8, 2024 10:38 PM by The Maritime Executive

Despite three large-scale airstrikes and daily follow-up bombardment, Yemen's Houthi militant group continues to stage and prepare anti-ship munitions for use against targets in the Red Sea, according to U.S. Central Command. 

On Thursday, U.S. forces carried out "self-defense" strikes against four Houthi suicide drone boats and seven mobile anti-ship cruise missile sites. These repeated interventions occurred over the course of the day, from 0500 to 2100 hours local time. 

On Wednesday, at about 2100 hours, U.S. forces destroyed two antiship cruise missiles that were prepared to launch against Red Sea shipping, and hit another missile launcher at 2330 hours. 

In a shift, Houthi activity has centered on the Red Sea rather than the Gulf of Aden in recent days. The Iranian spy ship Behshad, which is widely suspected of providing targeting information for the Houthis in the Gulf of Aden, put into port at Djibouti on February 2 and is no longer loitering near the shipping lanes of Bab el-Mandeb (as first noticed by TankerTrackers.com). 

"Wherever the Behshad goes happens to be more or less where the Houthis happen to be targeting their anti-ship ballistic missiles, suicide drones and suicide boats," said Middle East Institute fellow Charles Lister, speaking to NBC.

Behshad has been mentioned as a possible weak point in the Houthi's targeting "kill chain" for anti-ship missiles, and Iran has warned its opponents not to interfere with the vessel. On Tuesday, the Iranian military warned that “those engaging in terrorist activities against the MV Behshad or similar vessels, jeopardize international maritime routes, security and assume global responsibility for potential future international risks.”

Iran is also widely believed to be supplying the lion's share of the hardware for Houthi attacks, and has had a supplier/sponsor relationship with the group since the outset of the Yemeni civil war. The U.S. Navy regularly interdicts weapons shipments from Iran to Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen. The unmanned aerial attack drones used by the Houthis are the same Iranian-built Shahed models that Russia has purchased to use against Ukraine, according to the Defense Intelligence Agency, which has compared drone debris and other evidence from both battlefields.