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Video: French Navy Helicopter Shoots Down a Houthi Drone

Houthi drone as seen from French helicopter
Courtesy Marine Nationale

Published Mar 20, 2024 11:56 PM by The Maritime Executive

Houthi suicide drones are imposing a high cost on Western navies in the Red Sea - not because any of the group's munitions have hit a government vessel, but because of the multimillion-dollar expense of shooting them down. This week, a French frigate demonstrated a more cost-effective approach to defeating low-and-slow drone attacks: a helicopter chase. 

In a video released by France's defense ministry, a helicopter from an unnamed French frigate tracked a slow-moving Houthi drone as it entered the shipping lanes of the Red Sea. While not shown, the audio suggests that the aircrew's door gunner shot the UAV down. 

At a cost per round of about $0.50-1.00, plus the $5-10,000 hourly operating cost of the helicopter, the price of downing the drone was far less than what it would have been with the Aster air-defense missiles carried by the same frigate. This is not hypothetical: a French warship recently used a multi-million-dollar Aster to destroy a drone within visual range, below. (The crew also had an opportunity to take down a drone with the main deck gun, a less expensive but dangerously close engagement.)

France is participating in the Red Sea air defense mission under the auspices of the EU's Operation Aspides, a strictly defensive coalition under a separate command structure from the U.S.-led Operation Prosperity Guardian.