Tactical

Why the Navy says its Red Sea and Gulf of Aden battles are historic

SAN DIEGO — The Navy’s ongoing battles with Iran-backed Houthi rebels in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden have resulted in destroyers shooting down 14 anti-ship ballistic missiles “for the first time in history,” the Navy’s top officer said Tuesday at the annual West 2024 conference here.

Since the start of the Israel-Hamas war in October, the warships Carney, Gravely, Laboon, Mason and Thomas Hudner have destroyed more than 70 drones and seven Houthi cruise missiles, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Lisa Franchetti said.

Anti-ship ballistic missiles are designed to hit vessels like Navy destroyers, and their deployment by the Houthis against military and commercial ships in the region is believed to be the first time such munitions have been used in a conflict.

In recent months, the Navy has also pounded Houthi positions in Yemen, eliminating missiles and kamikaze drones that are still on the ground but prepared to fire.

“And that’s really just the start of what our Navy is doing around the world,” Franchetti said. “We can walk and chew gum at the same time.”

She also noted the Navy is being challenged in the world’s waters to a level that hasn’t been seen since World War II.

“For the first time since World War II, we no longer operate from a maritime sanctuary against competitors who cannot threaten us today,” she said. “Sea control is neither guaranteed nor freely given.”

Geoff is the editor of Navy Times, but he still loves writing stories. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at [email protected].

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