January 11, 2024 | Flash Brief

U.S., UK Shoot Down Largest Houthi Missile and Drone Barrage in Red Sea

January 11, 2024 | Flash Brief

U.S., UK Shoot Down Largest Houthi Missile and Drone Barrage in Red Sea

Latest Developments

U.S. and British forces in the Red Sea on January 9 thwarted the largest attack yet by Houthi rebels against commercial shipping in the southern Red Sea. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned on January 10 that if the attacks continue “there will be consequences.” What those consequences will be remains to be seen.

According to U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), the guided missile destroyers USS Gravely, USS Laboon, USS Mason, and HMS Diamond, as well as F/A-18 fighter jets from the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier, shot down 18 one-way attack drones, two anti-ship cruise missiles, and one anti-ship ballistic missile launched by the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen. The attack, which resulted in no injuries or damage, came as dozens of merchant vessels transited the region. The Houthis have attacked commercial shipping in the region 26 times since November 19, CENTCOM reported.

Expert Analysis

“This complex attack by the Iranian-backed Houthis represents a serious escalation. The American and British service members who defeated the attack and defended the commercial vessels deserve great credit. Unfortunately, this brazen attack demonstrates that the Houthis and their patron in Iran are not backing down and are clearly unimpressed by warnings from Washington. If the costs for these attacks don’t increase dramatically for the Houthis, expect them to continue.” — Bradley Bowman, Senior Director of FDD’s Center on Military and Political Power

“This was an exceptionally well-executed defensive operation by U.S. and UK naval and air forces, but each of these intercepts can be very pricey, often pitting $1-2 million U.S. missiles against $30,000 threats. It is beyond high time for the United States to shift to a deterrence through punishment campaign and strike Houthi weapons, storage facilities, small boats, helicopters, and command and control centers. Further U.S. dithering invites more Houthi attacks.” RADM (Ret.) Mark Montgomery, Senior Director of FDD’s Center on Cyber and Technology and FDD Senior Fellow

U.S. and Coalition Warn Houthis of Consequence

The major new attack came despite a warning by the United States and 13 other countries on January 3 that the “Houthis will bear the responsibility of the consequences should they continue to threaten lives, the global economy, and the free flow of commerce.” The statement followed the formation on December 18 of Operation Prosperity Guardian, an international initiative that seeks to protect commercial shipping in the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, and the Bab el-Mandeb Strait. The coalition, as of January 4, includes 22 countries — with some providing military assets and others providing only support staff. On November 19, the Houthis seized the Bahamas-flagged cargo ship Galaxy Leader and continue to hold the vessel and 25 crew members hostage.

Washington’s Lack of Response

The number of drones and missiles shot down on January 9 alone surpasses the total number previously downed in multiple attacks since December 18. Despite the increasingly aggressive Houthi attacks, the United States has not responded with military force against Houthi launchers, radars, or military facilities in Yemen, nor has the Biden administration moved to re-list the Houthis as a foreign terrorist organization.

Houthis continue attacks in Red Sea despite warning from coalition,” by Joe Truzman and Bill Roggio

Houthi Attacks on International Shipping Continue,” FDD Flash Brief

Strait Talk on the Houthis,” FDD Podcast by Clifford May, Rear Adm. (Ret.) Mark Montgomery, and Bradley Bowman


Iran Iran Global Threat Network Iran-backed Terrorism Military and Political Power U.S. Defense Policy and Strategy