January 23, 2024 | Flash Brief

U.S., UK Forces Bomb Houthis’ Advanced Weapons

January 23, 2024 | Flash Brief

U.S., UK Forces Bomb Houthis’ Advanced Weapons

Latest Developments

U.S. and UK forces on January 22 carried out airstrikes against targets in Houthi-controlled territory in Yemen. The strikes aimed to degrade the Iran-backed group’s ability to attack commercial shipping in the region. According to U.S. Central Command, the targets included “missile systems and launchers, air defense systems, radars, and deeply buried weapons storage facilities.” U.S. and UK forces conducted the strikes with support from Australia, Bahrain, Canada, and the Netherlands. A Pentagon official said the strikes are not part of Operation Prosperity Guardian — a multinational mission to protect commercial shipping in the Red Sea, Bab el-Mandeb Strait, and the Gulf of Aden.

This was the eighth acknowledged strike against the Houthis since the United States and the United Kingdom first responded to multiple attacks on international commercial vessels on January 11 but only the second with UK involvement. A senior military official said that the strike was the first time the United States and its allies bombed a Houthi underground weapons storage facility that contained advanced conventional arms, including missiles and drones. The official added that the strike “definitely degraded” the Houthis’ ability to conduct maritime attacks.

Expert Analysis

“Ensuring that U.S. and global commerce can flow unimpeded through one of the world’s most vital maritime chokepoints is not a sideshow in terms of defending core American economic and security interests. The Tehran-Houthi terror team is mounting the most significant assault on freedom of navigation that we have seen in decades. Defeating such an assault is one of the reasons we have a navy.” Bradley Bowman, Senior Director of FDD’s Center on Military and Political Power

“I commend the persistent nature of these U.S. and allied strikes. It will likely take a lot of cost imposition to deter Houthi actions, but this is much more cost-effective than a defensive-only approach of shooting down individual drones and missiles while in flight.” RADM (Ret.) Mark Montgomery, Senior Director of FDD’s Center on Cyber and Technology Innovation and FDD Senior Fellow

Targeted Strikes Using Precision-Guided Munitions

U.S. forces used aircraft from the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier located in the Red Sea, three surface vessels, and an Ohio-class submarine in the strike. UK forces included four Royal Air Force Typhoon FGR4 fighter jets armed with Paveway IV guided bombs and two Voyager refueling tankers. According to a senior U.S. military official, these forces likely launched approximately 25 to 30 munitions, including Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles and precision-guided munitions.

Iran Is Complicit in Houthi Attacks

The U.S. Navy’s top Middle East commander, Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, noted Iran’s involvement in Houthi attacks against commercial and military vessels in the Red Sea and surrounding waters. Iran is “very directly involved,” he said.

“Clearly, the Houthi actions, probably in terms of their attacks on merchant shipping, are the most significant that we’ve seen in two generations,” Cooper added.

Iranian military assistance to the Houthis is not a recent development. Iranian assistance played a crucial role in perpetuating the civil war in Yemen, diminishing the Houthis’ willingness to engage in negotiations and exacerbating the dire humanitarian catastrophe. Iran’s military assistance to the Houthis includes light weapons, anti-tank missiles, anti-ship missiles, drones, and ballistic missiles. In December 2021, the spokesman for the Saudi Arabia-led Arab coalition against the Houthis said that the Houthis targeted Saudi Arabia with more than 400 missiles and 850 drones between 2015 and 2021.

Houthis Protect Chinese and Russian Shipping, Target Global Shipping,” FDD Flash Brief

US vs Houthis: New stage of Red Sea threats emerges,” by Seth J. Frantzman

Tehran’s terror proxy in Yemen targets Israel and international shipping,” by Bradley Bowman and Ryan Brobst


Gulf States Iran Iran Global Threat Network Military and Political Power U.S. Defense Policy and Strategy