Royal Navy Destroyer Joins Red Sea Maritime Security Force

Drone shootdown Royal Navy News
HMS Diamond launches a Sea Viper missile to shoot down a Houthi drone (Royal Navy)

Published Dec 19, 2023 3:06 PM by Royal Navy News

HMS Diamond has joined an international naval force on a dedicated mission to safeguard shipping in the Red Sea.

Just three days after the Portsmouth-based destroyer downed a drone fired at merchant shipping, Diamond has been assigned to the new Operation Prosperity Guardian, an international effort involving the USA, UK, Bahrain, Canada, France, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Seychelles and Spain.

Led by Combined Maritime Forces’ Combined Task Force 153 – which is responsible for security in the Red Sea, Bab al-Mandeb narrows and Gulf of Aden – the operation has been established to ensure the free-flow of shipping through one of the world’s most important sea lanes.

That shipping has come under attack repeatedly in recent weeks with drones fired by Houthi rebels in Yemen – with US, French and British warships all called upon to take out the threats with air defense missiles.

Diamond’s actions in the small hours of Saturday morning is the first time a Type 45’s Sea Viper missile has been used in action and the first such shootdown by the Royal Navy since the 1990-91 Gulf War.

Ships from multiple nations will conduct maritime patrols in the region and respond as appropriate to threats to shipping.

The warships’ presence is also intended to reassure the maritime shipping industry, deter illegal activity, and promote safe navigation while protecting the free flow of international commerce on the high seas.

“The hostile actions of the Houthis, with their attacks on merchant vessels in the southern Red Sea, are a clear threat to the global economy and challenge the security, stability, and prosperity of all,” said United Kingdom Maritime Component Commander Commodore Phil Dennis, the senior Royal Navy officer in the Middle East. “Freedom of navigation and the unimpeded flow of goods and trade have long been central tenets of the Royal Navy."

An estimated 23,000 merchant vessels pass through the Bab-al-Mandeb choke point – with Suez the gateway to the Middle East and beyond for shipping from Europe. 

Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, the US officer commanding the Combined Maritime Forces from their headquarters in Bahrain, underlined that safe passage of the Red Sea was “crucial for the world economy”.

He continued: “More than 10 percent of global trade transits the waters anchored by two globally strategic waterways – the Suez Canal and the Strait of Bab-al-Mandeb. Regionally, it has even greater impact, channeling trade across more than half the globe, ranging from Europe to Asia. An attack on a single ship may easily impact as many as ten or more nations.”

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.