Allies Strike Back Against Houthis In Yemen (Updated)

Multiple types of Houthi facilities in Yemen have been struck in retaliation for constant attacks on vessels in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.

byHoward Altman, Joseph Trevithick, Tyler Rogoway|
US, UK and allies strike Houthi rebels in Yemen.
File photo of TLAM launch. USN
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The U.S. and U.K., with support from Australia, Canada, the Netherlands and Bahrain conducted strikes against Houthi facilities in Yemen in retaliation for attacks on Red Sea shipping, a U.S. defense official tells The War Zone. The strikes occurred from air, surface and subsurface platforms, the official said.

Editor's note: the latest on this evolving story can be found in our new post linked here.

The actions targeted Houthi radar systems, drone, ballistic and cruise missile storage and launch sites, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss operational details.

The attacks took place at about 6:30 Eastern time, the official said.

No immediate bomb damage assessment was available.

CNN reported on Twitter that the attacks were carried out by Tomahawk missiles and fighters.

Politico reported that the attacks involved U.S. aircraft, surface ships and submarines.

Voice of America reported on Twitter that there were more than a dozen targets hit, ranging from training facilities to drone storage sites.

Congress was briefed on the attack plans earlier today, CNN reported on Twitter.

As we reported earlier today, it was anticipated that the strikes would come tonight after U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak convened a special meeting of his cabinet. We've reached out to the Pentagon and CENTCOM for additional details.

You can read our explainer on the challenges, risks, and misconceptions when it comes to striking the Houthis in our previous explainer linked here.

This is a developing story. We will update it as more news comes in about this strike.

Update: 7:38 PM EST -

President Joe Biden has issued a statement on the strikes.

Multiple videos purport to show strikes in Yemen, with major explosions being seen and heard:

There have been growing calls for strikes against Houthi targets in recent weeks, and the U.S. has issued direct warnings of consequences if attacks were to continue. Now that reprisal strikes have begun, the threat level in the region has changed. The potential for Iranian proxies beyond Yemen to drastically increase their operations or even Iran getting involved more directly are palpable. U.S. installations will be put on high alert. Bases in Iraq and Syria, which have been under regular attacks from Iranian-alligned militias, are under greater threat now. Far closer to the action, the sprawling Camp Lemonnier  in Djibouti is just 100 miles from Yemeni shores and could come under large scale attack directly from Houthi drones and missiles. The top reason why the U.S. waited so long to strike the Houthis was out of fear of a wider conflict could erupt at a time when the region is already at great risk of doing so due to the Israel-Hamas war.

Suffice it to say the coming hours and days will be filled with uncertainty, but what is certain is that the Houthis have just faced the consequences that the U.S. had been warning of for weeks now.

UPDATE: 8:00 PM EST—

USS Florida, and Ohio class SSGN loaded with over 100 Tomahawk cruise missiles, took part in the strike, as is customary for this type of operation if an SSGN is in the area. We noted Florida's presence in the region back in October for this exact type of application.

RAF Typhoon FGR4s were also used in the strikes. This is unsurprising, but it does underline the use of land-based crewed tactical airpower to execute parts of the target list, which seems fairly extensive at this time.

Here is the U.K. Prime Minister's statement regarding the attacks:

"The Royal Air Force has carried out targeted strikes against military facilities used by Houthi rebels in Yemen.

In recent months, the Houthi militia have carried out a series of dangerous and destabilising attacks against commercial shipping in the Red Sea, threatening UK and other international ships, causing major disruption to a vital trade route and driving up commodity prices. Their reckless actions are risking lives at sea and exacerbating the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. 

Despite the repeated warnings from the international community, the Houthis have continued to carry out attacks in the Red Sea, including against UK and US warships just this week. 

This cannot stand. The United Kingdom will always stand up for freedom of navigation and the free flow of trade. We have therefore taken limited, necessary and proportionate action in self-defence, alongside the United States with non-operational support from the Netherlands, Canada and Bahrain against targets tied to these attacks, to degrade Houthi military capabilities and protect global shipping. 

The Royal Navy continues to patrol the Red Sea as part of the multinational Operation Prosperity Guardian to deter further Houthi aggression, and we urge them to cease their attacks and take steps to de-escalate."

The four RAF Typhoons launched from RAF Akrotir on the island of Cyprus and executed a long-range strike mission that would have been well over 3,000 miles round trip. Paveway IV bombs would mean these were direct strikes on targets with the Typhoons flying near the targets in order to deliver the bombs.

UPDATE: 8:15PM EST—

U.S. administration official stated the following during a briefing that The War Zone attended:

"This action is aimed specifically to disrupt and degrade Houthi capabilities to threaten global trade and freedom of navigation in one of the world's most critical waterways. The targets selected focus specifically on Houthi missile radar, the UAV capabilities, the capabilities that are essential to the Houthis campaign against commercial shipping international waters. This collective response follows one of the largest Houthi attacks in the Red Sea to date Earlier this week, on Tuesday, January 9, nearly 20 drones and multiple missiles were launched in multiple sellers directly against US ships. This attack was defeated by the US and UK naval forces working jointly as part of Operation prosperity Guardian."

A statement has been released by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin:

"In light of the illegal, dangerous, and destabilizing Iranian-backed Houthi attacks against U.S. and international vessels and commercial vessels from many countries lawfully transiting the Red Sea, today the militaries of the United States and the United Kingdom, with support from Australia, Bahrain, Canada, and the Netherlands, conducted strikes against military targets in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen. This action is intended to disrupt and degrade the Houthis' capabilities to endanger mariners and threaten global trade in one of the world's most critical waterways. Today's coalition action sends a clear message to the Houthis that they will bear further costs if they do not end their illegal attacks.

Today's strikes targeted sites associated with the Houthis' unmanned aerial vehicle, ballistic and cruise missile, and coastal radar and air surveillance capabilities. The United States maintains its right to self-defense and, if necessary, we will take follow-on actions to protect U.S. forces.

Since November 19, the Houthis have launched more than two dozen attacks on vessels, including commercial vessels, creating an international challenge that demands collective action. Today, a coalition of countries committed to upholding the rules-based international order demonstrated our shared commitment to defending U.S. and international vessels and commercial vessels exercising navigational rights and freedoms from illegal and unjustifiable attacks.

We will not hesitate to defend our forces, the global economy, and the free flow of legitimate commerce in one of the world's vital waterways."

UPDATE: 8:40 PM EST—

A U.S. defense official told The War Zone and other reporters:

"As of now we have not seen any response from the Houthis at this time."

"With regard to targets, clearly, each of our combatant commanders across the globe is responsible for maintaining a wide variety of response options. Some of those response options would include the kinetic targeting of particular locations and capabilities. It's no different for that big threat in Yemen. So the commander of Central Command has routinely maintained a series of response options for these particular targets. Due to operational security and cannot reveal the exact amount of time that it took to develop, I can only confirm that, as a course of action, each of our combatant commanders maintain response options including kinetic operations on a variety of targets."

"Due to operational security and vulnerability revealing any intelligence sources, I can't give you an exact percentage [of Houthi capabilities degraded] aside to say that the the aim of these strikes was very clear from the start and from the President... It was to remove capability for the Houthis to target maritime vessels, whether they be commercial or military, in the Red Sea. With regard to the contributions of our coalition partners, I can say clearly that the UK participated materially with fighter aircraft that actually participated in the strike, so are other partners. I would refer you to them and allow them to review their level of support"

Defense officials also tell The War Zone there was no U.S. losses in the strikes and there has been no major attacks on U.S. bases, including in Baghdad, either. They also noted that it would make sense for their to be additional Houthi attacks as the Houthis "malign activities remain unpredictable"
New statement from Houthi Maj. Gen. Abdulsalam Jahaf:

Now they are begging to de-escalate

They fired the first shot, and we are the ones who will determine the scene of the battle, and they will only find us where they hate. We are not among those who fear and fear America.

Clear

Here is Yemen
He is God

UPDATE: 11:00 PM EST—

CENTCOM has put out a statement and some video from the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower. The video shows a Growler taking off with AGM-88 HARMs and its ALQ-99 jamming pods, the other jets seen fully visible on the catapults do not look armed. An E-2 is also shown at the top of the video.

The statement reads:

"On Jan. 11 at 2:30 a.m. (Sanaa time), U.S. Central Command forces, in coordination with the United Kingdom, and support from Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, and Bahrain conducted joint strikes on Houthi targets to degrade their capability to continue their illegal and reckless attacks on U.S. and international vessels and commercial shipping in the Red Sea.

This multinational action targeted radar systems, air defense systems, and storage and launch sites for one way attack unmanned aerial systems, cruise missiles, and ballistic missiles. Since Oct. 17, 2023, Iranian-backed Houthi militants have attempted to attack and harass 27 ships in international shipping lanes. These illegal incidents include attacks that have employed anti-ship ballistic missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles and cruise missiles in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. These strikes have no association with and are separate from Operation Prosperity Guardian, a defensive coalition of over 20 countries operating in the Red Sea, Bab al-Mandeb Strait, and Gulf of Aden. “We hold the Houthi militants and their destabilizing Iranian sponsors responsible for the illegal, indiscriminate, and reckless attacks on international shipping that have impacted 55 nations so far, including endangering the lives of hundreds of mariners, including the United States,” said General Michael Erik Kurilla, USCENTCOM Commander. “Their illegal and dangerous actions will not be tolerated, and they will be held accountable.”

Lucas Tomlinson reports that 15 Super Hornets from the "Ike" took part in the operation.

We are also getting this look at one of the Arleigh Burke destroyers in the region launching a Tomahawk land attack cruise missile:

CENTCOM

UPDATE:

Check out the latest on this evolving story in our new post linked here.

Contact the authors: howard@thewarzone.com and tyler@thedrive.com and joe@thedrive.com

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