BY CALEB WEISS
| August 17, 2019
For nearly four years, Houthi forces have victimized both coalition warships and commercial vessels in the Red Sea. These strikes, which date back to Oct. 2015, have caused significant worries in the international shipping community.
Data from these naval attacks was gathered from Arabic and English-language media by FDD’s Long War Journal in an attempt to present a more complete picture of Houthi capabilities – on land, in the air, and at sea. In many instances, the Houthis themselves did not self-report the attacks.
Given the rate of piracy in the area, only attacks explicitly blamed on the Houthis were added to the database.
Much like the other aspects of the Houthi military arsenal, Iran has been widely suspected in aiding the Houthis maritime capabilities. Officials have warned that the insurgents’ suicide drone boats are likely manufactured with the aid
Houthi attacks in the Red Sea
FDD’s Long War Journal has documented 40 Houthi naval attacks. These strikes began rather unsophisticated, with some being the result of rocket-propelled grenades (RPG’s), and have advanced to more complex means, utilizing sophisticated remote-controlled vessels as the war has progressed.
These numbers are generated from each individual report of a naval attack and does not represent the total number of individual anti-ship missiles or suicide drone boats used.
Four more were recorded off the coast of Jizan, Saudi Arabia; 2 off the coast of Midi, Yemen; and one each off the coasts of As Saleef, Al Khokha, and the Abs District of Hajjah Governorate.
In another nine instances, remote-controlled suicide boats were utilized. The rest were either the result of unsophisticated attacks with small arms or were not specified in the reporting.
From the photos released by the Saudis, the design of these remote-controlled boats appears to have shifted to a more smaller frame with more technical components.
Warships belonging to the Saudi-led coalition, as well as other warships, have been routinely targeted by the Houthis.
Warships from Saudi Arabia and the UAE were targeted the most with 21 instances.
On May 10, 2018, Turkish ship Ince Inebolu was targeted by the Houthis
near the port town of As Saleef. The ship was reportedly carrying food aid to Yemen when it was reportedly hit by a missile off the coast. This is not the first time an aid ship was attacked by the Houthis.
Not all Houthi claims of naval operations on foreign warships have been legitimate. For instance, in Oct. 2015, the insurgent group said its men struck an Egyptian warship, the Al Mahrousa, in the Red Sea.
Since Jan. 2018, Houthi naval attacks have dropped off significantly. This slow-down and the now sporadic nature of naval attack claims appears to be directly linked to the loss of territory to the Saudi-coalition.
Merchant or civilian vessels have also been explicitly targeted at least nine times. In five of these cases, suicide drone boats were used, indicating that the Houthis have utilized this tactic indiscriminately.
It is unclear if more have been disarmed since then. The presence of non-disarmed naval mines in the Red Sea obviously constitutes a major worry for international shipping, highlighting one of the Houthi movement’s most potent threats.
Despite being a lesser focus of the Houthi military apparatus, and underreported in the media, naval attacks conducted by the insurgent movement constitute a real threat to shipping in the southern Red Sea.
Caleb Weiss is a contributor to FDD's Long War Journal.
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Brian L says:
Worrisome that one of the Kingdom’s principal achievements in Yemen has been providing the IRGC with a splendid testing ground for new equipment and tactics to use against the US Navy in the event of war in the Persian Gulf….
Great research, it has been extremely useful for my work. The data has been particularly instructive.
The Red Sea area is an interesting part of the world that is for sure. I worked in Ethiopia in 1983 and 1984 for the UNHCR and traveled from Addis Ababa to Eritrea and to the Ogaden. There was fighting everywhere. I flew into Tesenei in a DC-3. A large irrigation project had been in that area near Sudan. Out in the Ogaden fighters were carrying landmines according to local sources. The people in that part of the world have been fighting for thousands of years and I don’t think it will ever stop. Up in Asmara there were vestiges of the old Italian occupation. In fact Asmara still had a lot of charm at that time. The Red Sea was warm and I was carried by an undertow out from the shore. Fortunately I was a strong swimmer and made it back. There were no life guards and I was the only swimmer as I recall though the locals were on the hot sands of the beach.
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