Updated February 19th, 2024 at 11:12 IST

American Forces Target Houthi Underwater Drone for the 1st Time

The strikes, carried out between 3-8pm Yemeni time on Saturday, targeted three mobile anti-ship cruise missiles and one unmanned surface vessel.

Reported by: Sagar Kar
US President Joe Biden and the commerical vessel in the Red Sea. | Image:AP
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In a significant escalation of the conflict in Yemen, U.S. forces conducted five "self-defense strikes" against Houthi rebels in areas of Yemen controlled by the Iran-backed insurgents, targeting an undersea drone for the first time, according to U.S. Central Command.

This action marks the first instance of American forces observing the Houthis employing an unmanned underwater vessel (UUV) since the group initiated attacks on merchant and commercial ships passing through the Red Sea last October.

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Here is what you need to know

The strikes, carried out between 3-8pm Yemeni time on Saturday, targeted three mobile anti-ship cruise missiles and one unmanned surface vessel, in addition to the underwater drone. CENTCOM stated that these targets, located in Houthi-controlled areas, posed an imminent threat to U.S. Navy ships and merchant vessels in the region.

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"These actions will protect freedom of navigation and make international waters safer and more secure for U.S. Navy and merchant vessels," CENTCOM emphasized in its statement.

The Houthis have claimed responsibility for the Red Sea boat assaults, ostensibly in protest against the Israel-Hamas conflict, despite many of the targeted ships having no connection to Israel.

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US established a multinational maritime security force in December 

In response to the increased attacks on vessels in the Red Sea, the Biden administration established a multinational maritime security force in December. Both the U.S. and the U.K. have conducted multiple strikes on Houthi targets this year following further attacks on ships in the region.

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According to a report from Axios, Former Pentagon official and C.I.A. officer Mick Mulroy noted the significance of the Houthis' use of an underwater drone, suggesting a shift in their tactics. Mulroy highlighted the potential challenges posed by unmanned underwater vessels, noting their increased difficulty of detection and destruction compared to aerial drones and anti-ship missiles.

The use of multiple weapons systems against a single target could potentially overwhelm a ship's defenses, raising concerns about the evolving threat posed by the Houthi insurgency in Yemen.

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Published February 19th, 2024 at 11:12 IST