USS Carney shoots down drones, responds to ballistic missile attack on commercial vessel

Dec 3, 2023, 3:40 PM

The USS Carney shot down two Houthi drones headed in the ship’s direction in the southern Red Sea...

The USS Carney shot down two Houthi drones headed in the ship’s direction in the southern Red Sea on December 3 and responded to a distress call from a civilian commercial vessel that was fired upon by a ballistic missile, a US defense official said. (Ryan U. Kledzik, US Navy, AP)

(Ryan U. Kledzik, US Navy, AP)

(CNN) — The USS Carney shot down two Houthi drones headed in the ship’s direction in the southern Red Sea on Sunday and responded to a distress call from a civilian commercial vessel that was fired upon by a ballistic missile, a US defense official said.

The drones were part of four attacks against separate commercial vessels launched by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, US Central Command said in a statement Sunday evening. It’s unclear whether the USS Carney was a target of the drones.

The Carney — an Arleigh-Burke class destroyer deployed as part of the USS Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group — “destroyed” one Houthi drone while in the southern Red Sea. At the same time, the official said, the Carney observed “at least one ballistic missile fired at a civilian commercial vessel, the M/V Unity Explorer, which landed in that vessel’s vicinity.”

The Carney responded to the Unity Explorer’s distress call and, while assisting, shot down another Houthi drone that was heading in the direction of both ships.

Other vessels attacked

A US official said other commercial vessels were also “attacked by Houthi missiles today,” though it’s unclear how many or which vessels specifically. The US official added that in “at least two circumstances, the Carney successfully shot down UAVs headed in its direction” while lending support.

The Houthi-run Yemeni Armed Forces claimed on Sunday that its naval forces had carried out attacks against what it called “two Israeli ships” in the Red Sea’s Bab al-Mandab strait.

According to Yemeni Armed Forces’ statement, the vessels Unity Explorer and Number Nine were engaged with a naval missile and drone, respectively, after rejecting warning messages.

The Unity Explorer, according to maritime security company Aubrey, was struck by at least two unmanned aerial vehicles, and the Number Nine vessel reportedly incurred physical damage from a UAV.

“The targeting operation came after the two ships rejected warning messages from the Yemeni naval forces,” the statement said. This action, it said, is part of ongoing efforts to obstruct Israeli ships from navigating the Red and Arab seas “until the Israeli aggression against our steadfast brothers in the Gaza Strip stops.”

“The Yemeni Armed Forces renew their warning to all Israeli ships or those associated with Israelis that they will become a legitimate target if they violate what is stated in this statement and previous statements issued by the Yemeni Armed Forces.”

Statement on the action taken by the USS Carney

US Central Command, in its statement, cast the attacks as “a direct threat to international commerce and maritime security.”

“They have jeopardized the lives of international crews representing multiple countries around the world,” the statement said, noting that while these attacks were launched by Houthis in Yemen, the US has reason to believe they were
“enabled by Iran.”

Since Hamas’ attack on Israel on October 7, the Iran-backed Houthi forces in Yemen have launched numerous cruise missiles and attack drones toward Israel and US assets in the region, heightening concerns that the Israel-Hamas war could expand further into the region.

Previous incidents

Last month, the USS Thomas Hudner shot down multiple one-way attack drones launched from Yemen. And roughly a week ago, two ballistic missiles were fired from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen toward the USS Mason in the Gulf of Aden, after it responded to a distress call from another commercial tanker that had come under attack by five armed individuals believed to be Somali.

Israel said on October 31 that it thwarted an aerial attack by the Houthis; a spokesperson for the Houthi forces said that strikes against Israel would continue until “Israeli aggression” stops.

Sunday’s attacks also come just a day after aircraft from the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group intercepted an Iranian unmanned aerial vehicle operating “in an unsafe and unprofessional manner” in the Persian Gulf.

Despite the ongoing attacks — including regular attacks on US and coalition forces in Iraq and Syria — US officials have maintained that they believe the Israel-Hamas conflict has not yet spilled over into the region.

“We largely see the conflict contained between Israel and Hamas,” Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said last week. “That’s not to say that you haven’t seen Iranian proxies attempt to take advantage to further their own goals.”

CNN’s Zachary Cohen contributed to this report.

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USS Carney shoots down drones, responds to ballistic missile attack on commercial vessel