January 17, 2024 | Flash Brief

U.S. Navy Intercepts Houthi-Bound Iranian Missile Component Shipment

January 17, 2024 | Flash Brief

U.S. Navy Intercepts Houthi-Bound Iranian Missile Component Shipment

Latest Developments

A shipment of Iranian-made advanced conventional weapons (ACW) being smuggled from Iran to Houthi forces in Yemen were seized by U.S. naval forces, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) announced on January 16. According to CENTCOM, U.S. Navy SEALs operating from the USS Lewis B. Puller boarded a traditional vessel, known as a dhow, on January 11 near the coast of Somalia. During the search, Navy personnel found Iranian-made components of anti-ship cruise missiles, a class of weapons that the Houthis have used to attack commercial shipping in the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, and the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, as well as components for medium-range ballistic missiles. Items seized included propulsion, guidance, and warheads used for missiles as well as components associated with air defense.

CENTCOM said the interception is the first seizure of Iranian-supplied ACWs en route to the Houthis since the Iran-backed group began attacking commercial shipping in the region on November 19 and the first interception of advanced Iranian ballistic and cruise missile components by the U.S. Navy since November 2019.

Expert Analysis

“Congress should ask the administration and the Pentagon what they need to interdict more weapons that Iran is smuggling to Yemen while pressing the administration to expand targeting of the Houthis’ military infrastructure until terror attacks on civilian vessels end.”Bradley Bowman, Senior Director of FDD’s Center on Military and Political Power

“Despite being the newest member of the constellation of terror and proxy groups Iran created or co-opted, known as the Axis of Resistance, the Houthis have among the most lethal long-range strike capabilities of any such actor. Iran’s capability and intent to continue to furnish the Houthis with these platforms means Red Sea maritime harassment is set to continue.” — Behnam Ben Taleblu, FDD Senior Fellow

Search Ongoing After Navy SEALs Lost at Sea

U.S. officials told The Washington Post that during the operation, one SEAL slipped from a ladder while attempting to board the dhow in rough seas, and a second SEAL dove into the water to help. The swells then swept both sailors away. CENTCOM Commander Gen. Michael Erik Kurilla said that CENTCOM is conducting “an exhaustive search for our missing teammates.” The Navy detained the dhow’s 14 crew members and sunk the boat after deeming it unsafe.

Houthis Continue Attacks Despite Airstrikes

The seizure came the same day as U.S. and British forces conducted significant airstrikes on targets in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen. These strikes were a response to approximately 27 Houthi attacks on international shipping in the region. The Houthis continued their attacks on ships after the combined airstrikes, including targeting a U.S. warship. On January 15, the Houthis struck a U.S.-owned container ship. The United States destroyed four Houthi anti-ship ballistic missiles in Houthi-controlled territory on January 16. Later that day, the Houthis struck a Maltese-flagged bulk carrier with an anti-ship ballistic missile.

Houthis continue attacks after Western strikes target launch sites,” by Joe Truzman and Bill Roggio

Houthis Vow to Continue Attacks Despite U.S., UK Airstrikes,” FDD Flash Brief

Biden Can’t Bring Peace to Yemen While Iran Keeps Sending Weapons,” by Bradley Bowman and Katherine Zimmerman


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