German Frigate Joins Fight, Taking Down Houthi Drones

German frigate Hessen
Hessen took down its first two Houthi drones as part of a deployment expected to last till the end of April 2024 (Bundeswehr)

Published Feb 28, 2024 12:27 PM by The Maritime Executive


Less than a week after the German Parliament authorized its participation in the EU mission in the Red Sea, the German Navy reports its frigate has already fought its first drones. A spokesperson for the German Navy reports the vessel which arrived in the Red Sea region on Sunday, February 25, has already cited the Houthis’ unnamed aircraft in the first 48 hours of its mission.

The Hessen, commissioned in 2006 as one of three Sachsen-class frigates, entered the Red Sea on February 25 as part of the EU defensive mission Aspides. The EU Naval Force detected the launch of the drones and on Tuesday, February 27 the Hessen successfully engaged for the first time.

“The crew initiated defensive measures,” Bundeswehr command reports, and “successfully combatted the unmanned aerial vehicle. A short time later, a second flying object approached the German frigate. The renewed defensive measures led to successful combat.”

A spokesperson provided a few additional details on the two drones. The approaches came about 20 minutes apart on Tuesday and they reported that two different weapons systems were engaged without providing details. They also confirmed there was a previous drone sighting on Monday in which the Hessen believed it had located a suspicious drone operating in the area,

German media is now reporting that the Hessen however was unable to identify the drone and opened fire. The German news magazine Der Spiegel is now reporting that it appears they targeted an American drone on Monday. The magazine reports two missiles were fired from the Hessen on Monday at the unidentified drone but missed the target and crashed into the sea due to a "technical defect."

A spokesperson for the German Navy confirmed a "friendly fire incident" without providing additional details. The German media is saying it highlights the need for better coordination among the various forces in the region.

According to the command, the 5,800-ton Hessen which is 469 feet (143 meters) in length and has a crew of 240 soldiers and sailors, is “particularly suitable for this mission because of its extensive air defense capabilities to protect ships against multidimensional attacks.” She is expected to remain in the operational area until the end of April and be replaced in the second half of 2024 by her sister ship the Hamburg (commissioned in 2004) for the mission.

The two incidents on Tuesday for the German vessel came as the U.S. Central Command reported that U.S. aircraft and a coalition warship shot down five one-way attack unmanned aerial vehicles in the Red Sea. U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Daniel Shapiro according to a report from Bloomberg told a Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday the U.S. has struck 230 targets since the mission began. 

Earlier on Tuesday, an unidentified merchant ship reported to the UK Maritime Trade Organizations that it saw a missile explode approximately three to five nautical miles off its starboard side. The vessel was in the Red Sea approximately 60 nautical miles west of Al Hudahday, Yemen UKMTO reported.