Massive One-Day Barrage of Houthi Attacks on Shipping Fended Off by Navy Destroyer, Fighter

Chief Gunner’s Mate Scottin Platero, left, briefs sailors during a weapons familiarization course aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Laboon (DDG 58) in the Mediterranean Sea.
Chief Gunner’s Mate Scottin Platero, left, briefs sailors during a weapons familiarization course aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Laboon (DDG 58) in the Mediterranean Sea, Dec. 14, 2023. (Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Alice Husted/U.S. Navy photo)

A Navy ship and strike group fighter jets thwarted another series of attacks in the Red Sea on Tuesday, shooting down numerous drones and missiles fired by Houthi rebels operating in Yemen, U.S. Central Command announced on social media.

The destroyer USS Laboon and F/A-18 Super Hornets from the USS Eisenhower carrier strike group shot down "twelve one-way attack drones, three anti-ship ballistic missiles, and two land attack cruise missiles in the Southern Red Sea that were fired by the Houthis over a 10-hour period," the command said. The attack began at around 6:30 a.m. local time.

The barrage comes a week after the Pentagon announced a new task force in the region to protect commercial shipping from such attacks. The Houthis have targeted shipping in the Red Sea since Oct. 19 in hopes of disrupting support for Israel in its war against Hamas in Gaza.

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The post did not say what the drones and missiles were targeting, but it noted that there was no damage to ships in the area or reported injuries. The 10-hour barrage also appeared to be the first instance of Navy jets responding to Houthi attacks.

Central Command also said that the Laboon was also forced to shoot down four unmanned aerial drones just three days earlier on Dec. 23 because they were headed toward the ship. reached out to the Pentagon at that time to get more clarity on whether the ship was targeted in the earlier incident but did not receive a response.

The attacks are just the latest in a growing number that the Houthis have launched with the apparent aim of targeting merchant shipping in the area and not U.S. Navy ships. The strikes have not only managed to hit some merchant ships with missiles, they have also undermined the Pentagon's claim that Israel's war with Hamas is contained and that the U.S. military presence is successfully deterring further aggression in the region.

Early in December, Houthi officials said that their forces would continue to "prevent Israeli ships from navigating the Red Sea and [Gulf of Aden] until the Israeli aggression against our steadfast brothers in the Gaza Strip stops."

Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh told reporters the next day that "it's still important to understand and to focus on [the fact that] what's happening in Israel and within Gaza has not spread out into a wider regional conflict."

On Dec. 18, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced a new international task force that is aimed at halting the attacks. The announcement came within days of several major shipping companies announcing that they would begin to avoid the area.

Defense officials have not offered many details on how the new unit differs from already existing security task force efforts in the region.

The U.S. also operates the Combined Maritime Forces, which has five separate task forces in the region, including Combined Task Force 153 that has focused on Red Sea maritime security since 2022.

Austin's announcement said the task force, dubbed Operation Prosperity Guardian, or OPG, will include the U.K., Bahrain, Canada, France, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Seychelles and Spain, and will jointly address security in the southern Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

However, Reuters has reported that Spain, Italy and France have pushed back on that claim and some countries, such as Norway and Denmark, were sending only officers, not ships.

Despite that, Maersk, one of the shipping companies that diverted its ships from the area, said the unit was "most welcome news for the entire industry and indeed the functionality of global trade," in a Dec. 24 statement.

"With the OPG initiative in operation, we are preparing to allow for vessels to resume transit through the Red Sea both eastbound and westbound," Maersk said.

The Laboon now joins the USS Carney, USS Mason and USS Hudner in having engaged and downed Houthi military equipment in the Red Sea.

Related: Incidents with Navy Ships and Rising Tensions in the Red Sea Test Pentagon's Deterrence Claims

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