U.S. Navy Calls Off Search for Missing SEALs in Gulf of Aden

USN file image

Published Jan 21, 2024 9:41 PM by The Maritime Executive


After an exhaustive 10-day search, U.S. Central Command has declared the two U.S. Navy SEALs who went missing in the Gulf of Aden deceased. The command has suspended SAR operations. 

The two men went missing on January 11 during the boarding of an unnamed dhow, which was suspected to be carrying Iranian-made weapons to Yemen for the Houthi rebel faction. U.S. Navy SEALs operating from USS Lewis B Puller, supported by helicopters, and unmanned aerial vehicles, carried out “a complex boarding of the dhow.” Officials have said that one team member was washed off the boarding ladder by a wave, and a second man jumped into the water in an attempt to save him; neither have been found. 

In an expansive search operation, vessels and aircraft from the U.S., Japan and Spain searched more than 21,000 square miles in an attempt to locate the missing men. The U.S. naval oceanographic community (ONR, FNMOC, Scripps) and the U.S. Coast Guard provided additional assistance. 

In a statement, Central Command said that no further information would be released out of respect for the families.

“We mourn the loss of our two Naval Special Warfare warriors, and we will forever honor their sacrifice and example. Our prayers are with the SEALs’ families, friends, the U.S. Navy, and the entire Special Operations community during this time,” said General Michael Erik Kurilla, USCENTCOM Commander.

The boarding team did recover weaponry from the suspect vessel on the night of the casualty. Central Command released an image of suspected Iranian missile components, including rocket motors, guidance units and at least one anti-ship missile warhead. The U.S. Navy sank the dhow after the boarding. 

Image courtesy Central Command