New Airstrikes Target Houthi Forces In Yemen (Updated)

The latest strikes by the U.S. and U.K. on Houthi targets in Yemen comes after reports that the Pentagon has given the operation a new name.

byHoward Altman|
Houthi Strikes by Typhoon fighters.
Photo by UK Ministry of Defence/Anadolu via Getty Images
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The U.S. and U.K carried out a new round of airstrikes against Houthi targets in Yemen, the Pentagon announced Monday afternoon.

"The militaries of the United States and United Kingdom, at the direction of their respective governments with support from Australia, Bahrain, Canada, and the Netherlands, conducted an additional round of proportionate and necessary strikes against eight Houthi targets in Yemen in response to the Houthis' continued attacks against international and commercial shipping as well as naval vessels transiting the Red Sea," the Pentagon said in a joint statement. "Today's strike specifically targeted a Houthi underground storage site and locations associated with the Houthis' missile and air surveillance capabilities."

"These precision strikes are intended to disrupt and degrade the capabilities that the Houthis use to threaten global trade and the lives of innocent mariners, and are in response to a series of illegal, dangerous, and destabilizing Houthi actions since our coalition strikes on January 11, including anti-ship ballistic missile and unmanned aerial system attacks that struck two U.S.-owned merchant vessels," the Pentagon added.

The U.K. MoD said four RAF Typhoon FGR4 fighters took part in the operation.

"Our aircraft used Paveway IV precision guided bombs to strike multiple targets at two military sites in the vicinity of Sanaa airfield," the MoD said in a statement. "These locations were being used to enable the continued intolerable attacks against international shipping in the Red Sea. This follows our initial operation on 11 January, and subsequent US action, to degrade the Houthis’ capability to conduct such attacks."

News of the airstrikes comes after CNN reported that the Pentagon is now calling the fight against the Houthis "Operation Poseidon Archer."

Assigning an operation name to these strikes is nod to the fact that efforts to stop the Houthis from attacking shipping in the Red Sea, Bab al-Mandab Strait and Gulf of Aden will require more than attacks of opportunity or even the wider airstrikes we've already seen. For the last five weeks, we have repeatedly highlighted how it is unrealistic that anything but an intricate, sustained and costly campaign that relies of persistent presence over and near Houthi territory in Yemen will be need to drastically reduce militant group's ability to continue disrupting shipping.

From our piece on the complex reality of 'striking the Houthis' from December 17th, which is more relevant now than before, linked here

"Having the U.S. military strike targets in Yemen sounds easy, and it wouldn't be hard to do operationally, but the escalation that could follow could pose much more challenging tactical problems. Giving the Houthis a 'bloody nose' is very different than actually stopping or even significantly curbing their ability to launch anti-ship attacks. Preempting anti-ship missile and drone attacks would require a large, costly, resource-sucking, open-ended operation. This would include persistent intelligence gathering across a very broad area, as well as strike assets at the ready to hit time-sensitive targets based on that real time intelligence. Is the United States prepared to see that through and to what end?"

And from a more recent post about America's first strikes on Houthi targets in Yemen linked here

"Still, it must be highlighted that attempting to directly stop the Houthi missile and drone attacks on shipping in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden militarily would be extremely resource intensive. While space-based infrared warning satellites would have detected the locations of anti-ship ballistic and most cruise missile launches — with many other intelligence capabilities gaining valuable information on these operations in recent weeks, as well — and documenting these patterns of operations would be critical to stopping launches before they occur, actually doing this would be a huge challenge. It would require a far more elaborate surveillance and reconnaissance enterprise to be persistently deployed over large swathes of Yemeni coastline and inland areas. This would need to be paired with assets at the ready capable of time-sensitive strikes. They would need to hit the launchers before firing.

Considering the Houthis have years of experience fighting against Saudi Arabia and their Arab coalition, they have dispersed their capabilities so they cannot be easily destroyed and know that firing from unpredictable locations and moving the weapons themselves around constantly is key to surviving. This makes eliminating them very challenging.

That being said, degrading the Houthis ability to target ships in other ways, like striking known radar systems and command and control nodes, could help reduce their ability to launch attacks but it will not eliminate it. Not even close."

The Biden administration is now crafting plans for a sustained military campaign targeting the Houthis in Yemen after nearly two weeks of strikes failed to halt the group’s attacks on maritime commerce, The Washington Post reported Jan. 20. That, however, is "stoking concern among some officials that an open-ended operation could derail the war-ravaged country’s fragile peace and pull Washington into another unpredictable Middle Eastern conflict," the newspaper reported.

The U.S. has carried out several preemptive strikes against Houthi missiles preparing to launch and on Jan. 12, U.S. and U.K. aircraft, surface ship and submarine attacked more than 60 targets hit at 28 sites in Houthi-controlled Yemen.

Meanwhile, Reuters reported last week that European Union member states have given initial backing to a naval mission to protect ships from attacks by Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi militia in the Red Sea. That is in addition to Operation Prosperity Guardian, a U.S.-led defensive effort to protect Red Sea shipping.

This is a developing story. We have reached out to several sources and will update it when more details emerge.

Update: 8:11 PM Eastern -

The Pentagon released an image of an F/A-18E/Fs Super Hornet from the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower taking part in today's strike.

USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) conducts flight operations in response to increased Iranian-backed Houthi malign behavior in the Red Sea, Jan. 22, 2024. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kaitlin Watt)

Update: 6:41 PM Eastern-

A senior U.S. military official provided some additional details at a press briefing attended by reporters, including from The War Zone.

"At approximately 4 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, U.S. Central Command forces alongside the Armed Forces of the United Kingdom, and with the support of Allied and partner nations conducted strikes on Houthi targets in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen," said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity to provide operational details.

"The strikes were launched from air, surface and subsurface platforms targeting eight locations consisting of Houthi missiles, unmanned aerial systems, and weapons storage areas. We conducted the strikes with Tomahawk Land Attack Cruise Missiles, and manned aircraft from the United States Navy, and the U.K. Armed Forces. Precision-guided munitions were used to destroy the targets and also to minimize collateral damage. We'd like to emphasize that these strikes have no association and are completely separate from Operation Prosperity Guardian, which is a defensive coalition currently comprised of 22 countries operating in the Red Sea, Bab al-Mandab Strait and the Gulf of Aden. The U.S., U.K. and partner forces that participated in these strikes this evening remain well prepared to defend themselves as well as well prepared to continue to contribute to the defense of maritime traffic and other military vessels as part of the coalition in the Red Sea, Bab al-Mandeb and Gulf of Aden.”

In addition to participation by the Eisenhower, the Ticonderoga class guided missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea and Arleigh Burke class guided missile destroyers USS Gravely and USS Mason also took part in today's attack, the senior U.S. military official told The War Zone.

Video posted by CENTCOM shows Super Hornets, a Growler, and an E-2 Hawkeye launching off of the 'IKE.' The video shows an F/A-18F with what appears to be a 2,000lb GBU-31 JDAM with a BLU-109 'bunker buster' bomb body launching off the ship.

We are also getting video of the RAF Typhoons that took part in the strikes:

Imagery shows 500lb Paveway IVs under the Typhoon's wings.

Update: 7:18 PM Eastern -

Some addition information from the Pentagon press briefing by a senior U.S. military official and a senior U.S. defense official:

“We observed good impacts and effects at all eight locations,” said the senior U.S. military official. “We did in fact destroy missiles, unmanned aerial systems and weapons storage areas. We continue to collect battle damage assessment, and we'll have we'll have a better assessment going forward. But at this point, we do assess that the strike was successful and achieved the desired effect of removing these capabilities from the Houthis.”

“These were facilities that had missiles and unmanned aerial systems. There's a combination of advanced and conventional weapons at these facilities. I don't know the exact number of munitions at this point as we're still assessing the strike itself, but I would, I would put it likely around probably in the 25 to 30 range right now.”

“This would be the first time we struck a storage facility of this type in Yemen,” said a senior U.S. defense official when asked if this was the first strike against a Houthi underground facility. “These other storage facilities were of a different type.”

“None of these targets had concerns for civilian casualties,” said the senior U.S. military official. “Again, precision-guided munitions were used in each of each of these events, and the locations were carefully vetted for any collateral damage concerns, so no, we we did not have any concern for civilian casualties at any of the tape locations.”

The senior U.S. defense official declined to say how long these strikes will continue.

“I don't want to make any projection about our future operations and I obviously will not speculate about these decisions and strategies,” said the official. “We've said that we aim to de-escalate. We aim to restore calm and the Red Sea. But when the international community is going to be attacked, there will be consequences. And that's what's happened again tonight.”

The senior U.S. military official declined to say what kind of precision-guided munitions were used by the Super Hornets.

The Jan. 11 interdiction that resulted in two Navy SEALs presumed dead after one fell into the water and one tried to rescue him was unrelated to the strikes against the Houthis, the senior U.S. military official said.

“This interdiction was separate from our ongoing maritime security operations in that region,” said the official. “We have for a very long time maintained a force that conducts routine interdiction actions on intelligence related to the smuggling of arms, particularly advanced conventional weapons throughout that region. And that is exactly what this mission was.”

The SEALs, operating from the Expeditionary Sea Base ship USS Lewis B. Puller, with the help of helicopters and drones, conducted the complex nighttime boarding operation when they went missing.

They were identified by our colleagues at Task & Purpose as Navy Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Christopher J. Chambers, 37, and Navy Special Warfare Operator 2nd Class Nathan Gage Ingram, 27.

Contact the author: howard@thewarzone.com

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