In a display of defense capabilities, United States assets effectively intercepted a barrage of assaults launched by Houthi forces in the Red Sea, marking a pivotal engagement that lasted over 10 hours on December 26th. According to statements from the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), the attacks involved a series of twelve one-way attack drones, three anti-ship ballistic missiles, and two land attack cruise missiles, aimed at U.S. naval units and other vessels in the region.
The USS Laboon, an Arleigh-Burke class guided missile destroyer, took an active role in countering the assaults alongside F/A-18 Super Hornets from the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group. This marks a significant moment as it is the first instance where air assets have been deployed in the U.S. response to these attacks, though the precise involvement of the Super Hornets remains undisclosed.
During the engagement, the USS Laboon and the F/A-18 Super Hornets successfully neutralized the threats without sustaining any damages to the ships in the area or reporting injuries, CENTCOM confirmed.
Notably, this marks the second instance where F/A-18E/F Super Hornets have recorded air-to-air victories, following their successful interception of a Syrian Su-22 Fitter in 2017. Leveraging the APG-79 AESA radar, these fighter jets demonstrated their capability to target smaller objects such as drones and cruise missiles. The Super Hornets may have utilized their arsenal, deploying AIM-9X Sidewinder missiles or AIM-120 AMRAAM radar-guided air-to-air missiles to effectively neutralize the threats.
Photographs released through the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service (DVIDS) showcased the F/A-18s conducting armed patrols, equipped with a standard armament including two AIM-9X, two AIM-120, and two GBU-54 Laser JDAM missiles, along with a targeting pod and external fuel tank. There is a possibility that the U.S. Navy might consider augmenting the air-to-air weaponry carried by the Super Hornets, should their role in countering Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) expand in the Red Sea.
The recent attacks by Houthi forces are part of ongoing confrontations in the region. Houthi militants have targeted vessels, particularly those perceived to have connections with Israel, since October 17th. Additionally, recent reports indicated Houthi forces claiming responsibility for a thwarted attack on the MV MSC United VIII container ship and a successful strike on the Gabon-owned MV Saibaba, among other incidents targeting merchant vessels.
The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) and its accompanying vessels have been actively involved in the region, operating from the Gulf of Aden, while the USS Laboon has been part of Operation Prosperity Guardian, aimed at safeguarding merchant shipping in the Red Sea.
These ongoing confrontations underscore the complex security challenges faced by the international community in the volatile Red Sea region, where geopolitical tensions often escalate, requiring robust defensive measures to protect maritime interests.