U.S. Forces Strike Ready-to-Launch Houthi Missiles in Yemen

A U.S. Navy F/A-18 fighter takes off from the carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower in the Gulf of Aden, January 12 (USN)
A U.S. Navy F/A-18 fighter takes off from the carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower in the Gulf of Aden, January 12 (USN)

Published Jan 17, 2024 11:58 PM by The Maritime Executive

On Wednesday night, hours after a Houthi attack on an American-owned bulker, U.S. forces carried out a strike on more than a dozen ready-to-launch missiles on the ground in Houthi-controlled parts of Yemen. 

Just before midnight local time, Central Command's forces launched strikes on 14 "Iran-backed Houthi missiles" that were loaded on launch rails and were ready to shoot at maritime targets. Houthi forces have repeatedly targeted merchant ships and warships in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, and have recently announced an emphasis on American-owned tonnage. 

In a statement, Central Command said that because of the imminent threat posed by the loaded missile launchers, U.S. forces had to "exercise their inherent right and obligation to defend themselves." 

“The actions by the Iranian-backed Houthi terrorists continue to endanger international mariners and disrupt the commercial shipping lanes in the Southern Red Sea and adjacent waterways,” said General Michael Erik Kurilla, commander of Central Command. "We will continue to take actions to protect the lives of innocent mariners and we will always protect our people.”

Houthi forces have attacked merchant ships and U.S. Navy warships dozens of times since November, and the Biden administration began hitting back with airstrikes last week. Many defense analysts assess that the Houthi militants - who have Iranian backing and years of experience in irregular warfare - will be able to sustain some level of anti-ship capability for the near future, despite limited Western counterstrikes. 

The Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) security partnership has advised all civilian shipping to stay well clear of Bab el-Mandeb, but the Red Sea-Suez Canal route remains popular for many shipping firms. Earlier Wednesday, two days after U.S. authorities warned American-linked ships to stay away from Houthi-controlled territory, Houthi forces hit the American-owned bulker GENCO Picardy with a drone off Yemen's southern coast.