UK Dispatches Replacement Destroyer to Red Sea as Houthis Claim New Attacks

Royal Navy destroyer
HMS Duncan returning to Portsmouth at the end of 2023 for an overhaul before today's deployment (Royal Navy)

Published May 27, 2024 1:46 PM by The Maritime Executive


The Houthi continue to issue reports of wide-ranging attacks on merchant ships and U.S. warships while providing few details. The claims no longer align with reports from vessels but the threat remains real. The UK Ministry of Defence reported today that it has dispatched a new destroyer to the region to provide relief to some of the forces that have been in the region since late 2023.

HMS Duncan deployed from Portsmouth today to the Red Sea. The Type 45 destroyer commissioned in 2013 will relieve her sister ship HMS Diamond, which has been protecting shipping lanes in the Red Sea from Houthi attacks since before Christmas. The Ministry emphasizes that it is a like-for-like replacement armed with the same Sea Viper missile system and equipped with the same radar systems. HMS Duncan spent five months in 2023 leading NATO’s premier task group in the Mediterranean Sea and has just completed a five-month refit period at Portsmouth.

She replaces HMS Diamond which was among the first warships to take up the mission in the Red Sea in 2023. During her deployment, the Ministry reports HMS Diamond shot down nine drones and one missile, launched by Houthis from the coast of Yemen at merchant ships. It included the first time the Sea Viper had been fired in hostilities since 1991.

The Houthi today claimed three more attacks on ships although neither the UKMTO, U.S. or EU forces, reported attacks or received information from vessels. Included in the Houthi claims was the reported targeting of two U.S. destroyers in the Red Sea. U.S. Central Command did report downing two missiles on May 25 over the Red Sea and a drone on May 26. They also reported the Houthi fired a cruise missile on May 23.

Two of the attacks they are claiming are on tankers. One the Largo Desert (49,700 dwt) is a product tanker registered in the Marshall Islands and managed by Anglo-Eastern. It was coming from Oman with the Houthi calling it an “American ship.” The other target was the Minerva Lisa (103,755 dwt), a crude oil tanker registered in Liberia and managed from Greece. The ship is being accused of violating the ban on Israeli ports although its AIS signal shows it has been in Egypt for days.

The final claim was on an MSC vessel which they continue to call an Israeli company. However, the name of the ship MSC Mechela (sic) does not exist and the closest match is a vessel reported in the Atlantic bound for Brazil. The Houthi claim says the MSC vessel was targeted in the Indian Ocean.

Despite the inconsistency in the reporting, the EUNAVFOR Aspides cautioned last week that the threat remains for commercial shipping. The more sporadic nature and inconsistency of the claims make it hard to predict the activity.