US Shoots Down 24 Houthi Drones And Missiles In Biggest Attack So Far

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Rob Aylward/Released)

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Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
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U.S. destroyers shot down 24 drones and missiles fired by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, constituting the largest attack on commercial shipping in the Red Sea since tensions escalated in October, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) confirmed Tuesday.

The Department of Defense is operating a panoply of naval assets in the region as part of Operation Prosperity Guardian, a U.S.-led coalition to defend critical waterways from repeated threats by the Houthis. Three guided-missile destroyers, the USS Mason, USS Gravely and USS Laboon, and F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jets from the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier engaged the mix of drones and missiles fired Tuesday, CENTCOM said in a statement.

 An initial assessment showed no damage or injuries to either the U.S. warships engaged in the firefight or any of the dozens of commercial vessels in the vicinity, according to CENTCOM. (RELATED: GOP Rep Launches Formal Investigation Of Austin’s Decision To Keep Hospitalization A Secret)

The U.S. intercepted 18 Iranian-made one-way attack drones, two anti-ship cruise missiles and one anti-ship ballistic missile in a combined effort at around 9:15 p.m. local time, the statement added.

CENTCOM reiterated a Jan. 3 warning from the U.S. and partners against the Houthis launching further attacks. “The Houthis will bear the responsibility for the consequences should they continue to threaten lives, the global economy, or the free flow of commerce in the region’s critical waterways,” the statement said.

Over the weekend, the Laboon shot down a single explosive-laden drone in “self-defense,” CENTCOM said. It was the first time the military had characterized an engagement as taking place in self- defense, although it has said that previous one-way attack drones were inbound before the warships neutralized them.

Prior to Tuesday, the largest single onslaught took place on Dec. 16, when the USS Carney shot down 14 attack drones that came at the destroyer in a wave without any sign of commercial vessels nearby.

U.S. military assets in the Red Sea now include 130 aircraft and the vessels assigned to the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group, carrying about 4,000 sailors and Marines, White House national security spokesperson John Kirby said at a briefing Wednesday.

“As the president has made clear, the United States does not seek conflict with any nation or actor in the Middle East, nor do we want to see the war between Israel and Hamas widen in the region,” Kirby said. “But neither will we shrink from the task of defending ourselves, our interests, our partners, or the free flow of international commerce.”

Members of Congress have raised concerns in recent days over Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s unannounced hospitalization, during which top national security leaders and the president were unaware he had been hospitalized for at least three days. While Austin’s deputy performed some routine operational duties, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle worried the apparent breakdown in chain of command could hinder the U.S.’ ability to respond to global tensions.

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