U.S. Navy destroyer in Red Sea reportedly shot down drone believed to have been launched against ship by Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen

November 17, 2023
Ben Marquis

Since the Oct. 7 outbreak of hostilities between Israel and Hamas, the United States has deployed additional troops and equipment to the Middle East region, including additional U.S. Navy warships.

One of those warships, a guided-missile destroyer known as the USS Thomas Hudner, reportedly shot down on Wednesday a suspected enemy drone that was approaching the ship, according to the Associated Press.

The incident occurred as the Hudner was traversing the waters of the Red Sea and the drone is believed to have originated in Yemen, most likely launched by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, though no official blame has been assigned in that regard.

Suspected Houthi rebel drone shot down by U.S. warship

The AP reported that Defense officials said that the drone that likely originated in Yemen was believed to be targeting the U.S. warship and that it was shot down over international waters out of an abundance of caution to protect U.S. personnel.

"The USS Thomas Hudner (DDG 116) engaged a drone that originated from Yemen and was heading in the direction of the ship," an unnamed spokesperson for U.S. Central Command said in a statement to the Washington Examiner.

The spokesperson added, "The drone was destroyed, and there were no U.S. casualties."

This incident involving the shootdown of a drone launched from Yemen was said to be different from an incident in October in which multiple drones and missiles fired from Yemen were shot down by a U.S. warship, in that the suspected targets of the prior incident were locations in Israel while the target in this latest incident was the U.S. ship itself.

Lack of retaliation thus far against "aggressive" Houthi actions

The AP reported that this latest incident came about a week after Houthi rebels had shot down a U.S. MQ-9 Reaper drone that the Houthis claimed had violated Yemeni airspace while U.S. officials insisted that the American drone had been operating over international waters when it was fired upon.

Per the Examiner, it doesn't appear that the U.S. military has conducted any sort of retaliatory action against the Houthis following the shootdown of the U.S. drone, which was addressed by Pentagon Deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh in a Tuesday press briefing in response to a question about whether that lack of retaliation was "inviting" more "aggressive actions" by the Houthis and other enemies.

"I wouldn't say that it's inviting more aggressive or further response from the Houthis," Singh replied. "We've seen the Houthis do this before. We've seen our -- one of our MQ-9s shot down before in the past."

"I'm not saying that we're not going to respond. We always reserve the right to respond at a time and place of our choosing. But I just don't have anything to forecast for you right now," she continued.

A supposed "strong message of deterrence"

Pressed about the apparent lack of deterrence, Singh said, "Well, you have to remember that one of our ships did take action when the Houthis did fire missiles that were, you know, headed towards Israel. We did engage in that. We did bring those down."

She added, "I'm not going to get ahead of any action that the secretary or the president may or may not take. We have a very robust presence in the region right now that is sending, I think, a very strong message of deterrence. And while I certainly hear your question, we -- we always reserve the right to respond at a time and place of our choosing."

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