HMS Diamond rearms as UK and US launch fresh strikes against Houthis after surge in attacks on Red Sea shipping

The Royal Navy destroyer HMS Diamond loaded Sea Viper missiles in Gibraltar over the weekend, following its deployment to the Red Sea as part of an international maritime operation to protect commercial shipping.

The warship arrived in the Red Sea last December to protect and support key shipping lanes following attacks by Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen and called at Gibraltar for maintenance and supplies after it was relieved by HMS Richmond.

During its deployment to the Red Sea, HMS Diamond faced three separate Houthi attacks, during which she successfully destroyed nine drones using her Sea Viper missile system and guns.

Another successful engagement for Sea Viper against a Houthi controlled attack drone targeting merchant shipping and coalition warships.

HMS DIAMOND remains dedicated to freedom of navigation and upholding international law.@RoyalNavy @DefenceHQ @DefenceOps

— HMS Diamond (@hmsdiamond) January 29, 2024

The warship, one of the Royal Navy’s most advanced, docked in Gibraltar with fresh ‘victory marks’ on her flanks depicting the nine downed drones.

HMS Diamond took on supplies as the UK and US on Sunday launched another round of missile strikes against Houthi targets in Yemen after a surge in attacks around the Red Sea.

American and British fighter jets hit sites in eight locations, according to US officials.

The action was intended to degrade Houthi capabilities used to “threaten global trade, naval vessels and the lives of innocent mariners” along one of the world’s most critical waterways, a joint statement said.

Intelligence analysis had successfully identified several very long-range drones, used by the Houthis for both reconnaissance and attack missions, at one site several miles north east of Sanaa, the Ministry of Defence said.

Precision-guided bombs were used against the drones and their launchers, according to the MoD.

This is the fourth time that a joint operation has been launched against the rebel group since January 12, though the action appears to have done little to deter Houthi attacks.

The US has also been carrying out almost daily strikes to take out targets including incoming missiles and drones aimed at ships, as well as weapons that were prepared to launch.

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said: “It is our duty to protect lives at sea and preserve freedom of navigation.”

“That is why the Royal Air Force engages in a fourth round of precision strikes against Houthi military targets in Yemen.”

Mr Shapps said it came after “severe Houthi attacks against commercial ships in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, including against the British-owned MV Islander and the MV Rubymar, which forced the crew to abandon ship”.

In a statement, the US, UK and other allies said the “necessary and proportionate strikes specifically targeted 18 Houthi targets across eight locations in Yemen” that also included underground storage facilities, radar and a helicopter.

The strikes have support from a wider coalition of countries including Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands and New Zealand.

Both Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and President Joe Biden have repeatedly said that attacks on the key global shipping route will not be tolerated.

But the Houthis have launched at least 57 attacks on commercial and military ships in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden since November, and the pace has picked up in recent days.

In Gibraltar last week, Armed Forces Minister James Heappey visited HMS Diamond and praised its crew following their deployment to the Red Sea.

“HMS Diamond has played a vital role defending freedom of navigation, saving innocent lives, and protecting merchant shipping from illegal Houthi attacks in the Red Sea,” Mr Heappey said.

“I am hugely thankful for British Forces Gibraltar’s support for HMS Diamond and, in turn, their contribution to Operation Prosperity Guardian.”

In a statement, the MoD also underlined the “critical role” played by Gibraltar in supporting Royal Navy vessels, adding it remains committed to investment on the Rock as a “key” defence hub in the face of current and future threats.

“HMS Diamond’s visit to Gibraltar demonstrates British Forces Gibraltar’s critical role in supporting Defence’s overall ability to combat current and future threats,” the MoD said.

“Defence is committed to investing in British Forces Gibraltar as one of Defence’s Global Hubs, key [in] supporting operations, defence engagement and exercises.”

PA contributed reporting for this article.