Red Sea Ship Attacks Continue After Super Hornets Strike Missiles

The U.S., using F/A-18E/Fs Super Hornets from the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, carried out another preemptive attack on Houthi missiles in Yemen on Thursday.

“U.S. Central Command forces conducted strikes on two Houthi anti-ship missiles that were aimed into the Southern Red Sea and were prepared to launch,” CENTCOM said in a statement. “U.S. forces identified the missiles in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen at approximately 3:40 p.m. (Sanaa time) and determined they were an imminent threat to merchant vessels and U.S. Navy ships in the region. U.S. forces subsequently struck and destroyed the missiles in self-defense.”

This is the fifth attack against Houthi targets in Yemen since the Houthis began attacking Red Sea area shipping and the third day in a row that the U.S. has struck missiles being prepared to launch.

The U.S. conducted a preemptive attack against 14 Houthi missiles on Wednesday and another preemptive strike against four Houthi anti-ship ballistic missiles on Tuesday. The U.S. previously struck a Houthi radar site with a Tomahawk Land Attack Missile fired by the Arleigh Burke class guided missile destroyer USS Carney on Jan. 13. That came after U.S. and U.K. aircraft, surface ship and submarine attacks on more than 60 targets hit at 28 sites in Houthi-controlled Yemen on Jan. 12.

Earlier Thursday President Joe Biden was asked by reporters if the strikes against the Houthis were working.

“Well, when you say ‘working, are they stopping the Houthis?,” Biden responded with a question of his own: “No. Are they going to continue? Yes.”

Asked to respond to that statement during a press briefing Thursday afternoon, Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh told reporters, including from The War Zone, that the Pentagon “never said that the Houthis would immediately stop. That is something that they will have to make that decision and that calculation to do. It’s in their best interest I think to stop. You’ve seen that we’ve been able to degrade and severely disrupt and destroy a significant number of their capabilities since Thursday, but it’s really on them when they decide that they want to stop interrupting commercial shipping innocent mariners that are transiting the Red Sea.”

There were indications of an incident in the region involving another vessel, but officials could not immediately confirm that.

In addition, neither Singh nor CENTCOM could immediately confirm reports that a U.S. MQ-9 Reaper drone was shot down near Baghdad Thursday.

If verified, this would be the second Reaper shot down since the start of the Israel-Hamas war Oct. 7. Houthi militants in Yemen reportedly shot down a Reaper off the country’s coast earlier Nov. 8, which you can read more about in our original report here.

This is a developing story. We will update it when there is more news to report.

Update: 5:53 PM Eastern –

UKMTO issued another report, this time about an unnamed merchant vessel in the Gulf of Aden observing four “unidentified Uncrewed Aerial Systems (UAS)” flying near the ship, with one landing in the water about 800 meters away.

“Vessel and crew are safe and proceeding to their next port of call.”

The Houthis, meanwhile, put out statement claiming to have struck a vessel called the Chem Ranger with “several appropriate naval missiles, resulting in direct hits.”

The War Zone could not immediately verify this claim.

The Houthi statement adds that it will continue hitting shipping and conduct strikes in retaliation for the ongoing attacks conducted in Yemen by the U.S. and U.K.

“The Yemeni Armed Forces confirm that a retaliation to the American and British attacks is inevitable, and that any new aggression will not go unpunished.”

“The Yemeni Armed Forces confirm that navigation traffic in the Arab and Red Seas will continue to all destinations around the world except for the ports of occupied Palestine, and that the block of Israeli navigation or heading to the ports of occupied Palestine will continue until the ceasefire is achieved and the siege is lifted in the Gaza strip.

“The Yemeni Armed Forces continue to implement their defensive and offensive procedures within the legitimate right of defense of dear Yemen and in confirmation of continued solidarity and support for our steadfast brothers in the Gaza Strip.”

We’ve reached out to the Pentagon and CENTCOM for information about this claim and will provide details if they become available.

Update: 7:57 PM Eastern –

CENTCOM issued a statement on the Chem Ranger attack.

“On Jan. 18 at approximately 9 p.m. (Sanaa time), Iranian-backed Houthi terrorists launched two anti-ship ballistic missiles at M/V Chem Ranger, a Marshall Island-flagged, U.S.-Owned, Greek-operated tanker ship. The crew observed the missiles impact the water near the ship. There were no reported injuries or damage to the ship. The ship has continued underway.”

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