Houthis Bring Down Second US Reaper Drone as Red Sea Crisis Escalates

© Sputnik ScreenshotA video purported to be of a Houthi anti-air missile striking a US MQ-9 Reaper drone over Mari'b Governorate on March 23, 2021
A video purported to be of a Houthi anti-air missile striking a US MQ-9 Reaper drone over Mari'b Governorate on March 23, 2021 - Sputnik International, 1920, 19.02.2024
A senior Houthi official said last week that the critical maritime corridor linking Europe and Asia was “no longer a resort in which the Americans can roam and have fun in.” On Sunday, US Central Command confirmed that the Navy’s nightmare scenario of Houthis armed with unmanned underwater and surface vessels had turned into a reality.
Yemen’s Houthi fighters say they’ve shot down a second US MQ-9 Reaper drone, with the incident reportedly taking place over Al Hodeidah Governorate in the country’s west.
“In Hodeidah, the Yemeni air defenses were able, with the help of God Almighty, to shoot down an American aircraft (MQ-9) with a suitable missile while it was carrying out hostile missions against our country on behalf of the Zionist entity,” Houthi spokesman Yahya Sare’e said in a statement Monday.
“The Yemeni Armed Forces will not hesitate to take more military measures and carry out more qualitative operations against all hostile targets in defense of beloved Yemen and in confirmation of the position of support for the Palestinian people. The operations of the Yemeni Armed Forces in the Red and Arabian Seas will not stop until the aggression stops and the siege on the Gaza Strip is lifted,” he added.
CENTCOM, the United States combatant command responsible for operations in the Middle East, has yet to comment on the Houthis’ announcement.
The militia previously shot down a Reaper drone off the Yemeni coast on November 8, 2023, three weeks after starting a campaign of cruise missile and drone attacks targeting Israel, and provoking a US response. The same month, the Houthis began their campaign of attacks and hijackings against Israeli-affiliated commercial vessels traveling through the Red Sea, shrinking traffic through the critical maritime artery by over 40 percent.
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The Houthis’ air defense troops are known for their proficiency in shooting down MQ-9s, the laser-guided bomb and Hellfire missile-armed American unmanned aerial vehicles, downing their first one in October 2017 over Sanaa, Yemen’s capital.

The Houthis shot down their second and third Reapers in June and August 2019, respectively, reportedly using their domestically-made Fater-1 missile – a SAM system upgraded from a Soviet 2K12 Kub, which the USSR delivered to the then-divided country in large quantities, to do so.

The militia’s knowhow in shooting down drones has been matched by their ability to build their own, with the fighters regularly firing kamikaze UAVs and loitering munitions against the Gulf Coalition seeking to oust them from 2015 onward, and more recently, deploying them against commercial vessels and US and British warships deployed to the Gulf amid the Palestinian-Israeli crisis.
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On Sunday, CENTCOM confirmed that in addition to anti-ship cruise missiles, the Houthis possessed unmanned underwater and unmanned surface vessels.
CENTCOM’s statement came just days after Rear Admiral Marc Miguez, commander of US Carrier Strike Group Two, warned that “one of the most scary scenarios” for his forces is “to have a bomb-laden, unmanned surface vessel that can go in pretty fast speeds.”
“[It’s] more of an unknown threat that we don’t have a lot of intel on, that could be extremely lethal – an unmanned surface vessel,” Miguez said, adding that the Houthis “have ways of obviously controlling them just like they do [aerial drones], and we have very little fidelity as to all the stockpiles of what they have.”
Carrier Strike Group Two and its lead ship, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier, have been patrolling the Red Sea since November, with officers and seamen reportedly approaching exhaustion from having to chase after Houthi hijackers and shoot down their incoming missiles and drones. Last week, the Royal Navy’s HMS Diamond guided missile destroyer was “temporarily” pulled out of the Red Sea to refit after having to dodge repeated Houthi attacks. That ship had been operating in the region since December, with Britain being the sole US ally to commit anything beyond a handful of seamen to Washington’s "Operation Prosperity Guardian" mission against the Houthis.
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