The Jan 30 attack on a Saudi frigate in the Red Sea was carried out by a Houthi remote control ‘drone boat,’ and not a suicide bomber as first reports claimed, according to a senior U.S. Navy official.
What was originally reported as a suicide attack was revised following further analysis and assessment by the Navy. 5th Fleet Commander Vice Admiral Kevin Donegan told Defense News he believes that level of technological sophistication is beyond the capabilities of the Houthi rebels, currently engaged in a civil war in Yemen.
Instead, Donegan believes the attack to have originated with Iranian support.
The civil war in Yemen has been ongoing since 2014, and following the 2015 military intervention by a coalition of Arab states led by Saudi Arabia, has become a de facto proxy war between Iran and the Saudis, as each vies for regional influence.
The attack on the Saudi warship killed two and wounded three other sailors, and occurred just one day after President Trump spoke to Saudi King Salman, and Iran’s ballistic missile test in violation of a United Nations resolution.
The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps has long had access to high performance speed boats, capable of launching ship to ship missiles that can cause massive damage to enemy warships. The speed boats play a critical role in a potential Iranian strategy to choke and close off the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf in the event of a military attack on Iran.
Lacking military preeminence like the naval power of the United States, Iran would instead rely upon a ‘swarm attack’ of these speed boats, in the hopes that the small and fast-moving boats could overwhelm any adversary.
Iran has routinely provoked American warships in the Persian Gulf in the past with these speedboats. In response to this Iranian tactic, in 2012 the U.S. Navy added the Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System to their helicopters. The system enables a helicopter to fire multiple laser guided rockets with a 95-percent hit rate, enough to engage a swarm of speedboats.
The recent spate of attacks near the Strait of Bab al Mandeb has alarmed the U.S. and its allies, as the area is a critical maritime commerce corridor.
Image courtesy of Reuters U.K.