“The United Kingdom will always stand up for freedom of navigation and the free flow of trade.”
On 11 January, Royal Air Force aircraft joined coalition forces in striking a number of facilities used by the Houthi rebel faction in Yemen to attack shipping in the southern Red Sea.
The Royal Navy destroyer HMS Diamond has already been active alongside US and French warships in defending vital international shipping lanes against Houthi drones and missiles.
Given the persistence of the Houthis in threatening merchant ships, several of which have already suffered damage, and the deliberate targeting of HMS Diamond and US Navy vessels on 9 January, coalition forces identified key facilities involved in these attacks, and agreed to conduct a carefully coordinated strike to reduce the Houthis’ capability to violate international law in this manner.
Four RAF Typhoon FGR4s, supported by a Voyager air refuelling tanker therefore used Paveway IV guided bombs to conduct precision strikes on two of these Houthi facilities. One was a site at Bani in north-western Yemen used to launch reconnaissance and attack drones. A number of buildings involved in drone operations were targeted by our aircraft.
The other location struck by our aircraft was the airfield at Abbs. Intelligence has shown that it has been used to launch both cruise missiles and drones over the Red Sea. Several key targets at the airfield were identified and prosecuted by our aircraft.
In planning the strikes, particular care was taken to minimise any risks to civilians, and any such risks were mitigated further by the decision to conduct the strikes during the night. The detailed results of the strikes are being assessed, but early indications are that the Houthis’ ability to threaten merchant shipping has taken a blow, and our commitment to protecting the sea-lanes, through which some 15% of the world’s shipping passes and which is vital to the global economy, has been amply demonstrated.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak released the following statement:
In recent months, the Houthi militia have carried out a series of dangerous and destabilising attacks against commercial shipping in the Red Sea, threatening UK and other international ships, causing major disruption to a vital trade route and driving up commodity prices. Their reckless actions are risking lives at sea and exacerbating the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.
Despite the repeated warnings from the international community, the Houthis have continued to carry out attacks in the Red Sea, including against UK and US warships just this week.
This cannot stand. The United Kingdom will always stand up for freedom of navigation and the free flow of trade. We have therefore taken limited, necessary and proportionate action in self-defence, alongside the United States with non-operational support from the Netherlands, Canada and Bahrain against targets tied to these attacks, to degrade Houthi military capabilities and protect global shipping.
The Royal Navy continues to patrol the Red Sea as part of the multinational Operation Prosperity Guardian to deter further Houthi aggression, and we urge them to cease their attacks and take steps to de-escalate.