Another Houthi UAV falls to Op Aspides

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Another add to its successes in keeping Red Sea shipping safe from Houthi attacks came when the Italian Navy vessel ITS Virginio Fasan (F591) took down an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) last week.

The Marina Militare Carlo Bergamini Class frigate, according to the EU NavFor Operation Aspides press and information team, successfully repelled multiple attacks from Houthi-controlled territories in Yemen, while on close protection duties to a merchant vessel on 30 April.

The warship shot down the UAV with her 3-inch gun in accordance with the operation’s defensive mandate to protect shipping targeted by attacks from sea or sky. “Any response will always come as a consequence of an attack and be necessary, proportionate and limited to international sea or air-space,” an Aspides statement read.

This is the latest of five UAV attacks to be repelled by Aspides, now into its third month of operations in the Red Sea.

Other Aspides UAV-neutralising operations to date were executed by the Hellenic Navy frigate Hydra (F452) – two – and the Deutsche Marine frigate FGS Hessen (F221), with a French maritime helicopter using its machine gun to destroy a UAV. Also on the list of recent successes is the interception of three ballistic missiles by an unnamed French destroyer detached to Aspides.

Last month European Union (EU) Vice President Josep Borrell said Aspides provided close protection for 70 ships transiting the Red Sea in its first two operational months. On that date – 9 April – Aspides naval assets had repelled 11 Houthi attacks.

Headquartered in Larissa, Greece, Aspides has four naval platforms and a maritime helicopter to use in the execution of the Aspides mandate. The year-long operation was officially launched in February with an eight million Euro budget.

Meanwhile, the US military’s Central Command (Centcom) almost daily reports destroying Houthi UAVs and missiles aimed at shipping in the Red Sea and surrounds – either on the ground or on route to their targets. The latest incident on 2 May saw Centcom forces destroy three Houthi UAVs in a Houthi controlled area of Yemen. On 30 April, Centcom destroyed an uncrewed surface vessel that “presented an imminent threat to US, coalition forces, and merchant vessels in the region.”

The day before, on 29 April, Centcom reported that Houthis fired three anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBMs) and three UAVs from Yemen into the Red Sea towards MV Cyclades, a Malta-flagged, Greece-owned vessel. Initial reports indicate there were no injuries and the vessel continued on its way.

Earlier that day, Centcom forces successfully engaged and destroyed one Houthi launched UAV on a flight path towards USS Philippine Sea and USS Laboon in the Red Sea.

Houthis launch almost daily attacks on shipping – for example on 28 April Centcom destroyed five UAVs over the Red Sea. On 26 April the Houthis managed to inflict minor damage on the MV Andromeda Star, a UK owned and Panamanian flagged, Seychelles operated vessel. MV Andromeda Star reported minor damage, but continued its voyage.

In a notable incident that day, Houthis claimed a successful UAV attack on the MSC Orion in the Arabian Sea some 375 miles off the Yemeni coast. The ship reported an explosion and found some debris believed to be from a “Uncrewed Aerial System.” The ship sustained some minor damage with the report that the crew was uninjured and that the ship was proceeding.

This appears to be the furthest from Houthi-controlled sections of Yemen that a missile or drone attack has been carried out.

It will also mean that no ship sailing in the Gulf of Aden or the Arabian Sea off the Yemen coast can be considered safe from attack.

The Houthis are believed to be using drones manufactured in Iran. Military experts report Iran has claimed a capability of over 650 nautical miles for its drones and possibly further for its missiles.