US, Allies Opening New Front in Middle East With Escalation Against Houthis Over Shipping Lanes

What at the moment looks like the irresistible force of Houthi attacks against shipping in and out of Israel is meeting the seeming immovable object of Israel determination to render Gaza uninhabitable. But the US and a set of allies1, via the too-cutely named Operation Prosperity Guardian, are making a major naval force commitment to the Red Sea to try to counter the Houthi success in severely curbing traffic though the critically important Bab el-Mandeb Strait.

Keep in mind the Houthis insist they are seeking only to restrict shipping in and out of Israel. But major cargo operators have stopped servicing the Red Sea area as insurance prices have spiked. So we have the spectacle of the US, a supposed naval power, unable to protect critical sea lanes. Can’t have that, now can we?

Mind you, it is not clear what good a convoy, which looks to be the immediate response, will do in the face of drone and ballistic missile attacks. Yes, it will put more defensive firepower in the theater. But the number of missiles and difficulty of resupply means there is a possibility, even a pretty good one that the Houthis can simply exhaust the firepower that can be delivered via the Operation Prosperity Guardian warships.

And that’s before getting to logistics issues, that to a degree, maybe a big degree, various vessels have particular launch platforms, so missiles are not very fungible across ships. So this the convoy could wind up being a high cost temporizing measure. Would the West try to move to a Plan B before it became hopelessly evident that it was outmatched by the proverbial guys in sandals, now with the force levelers of drones and ballistic missiles? Of course, events in the from of damage to convoy ships could overtake events.

So what might next steps be, if the big bad Western forces fail to trounce the Houthis quickly? Maybe the Biden Administration works up the nerve to tell Israel no more weapons for you if you don’t cut it out in Gaza. You can be sure the hawks will call for strikes on Iran to make them rein in the Houthis (when I doubt Iran has operational control) and/or a ground attack on Yemen. I consider the latter to be nuts. We saw from the Gulf Wars it took months to pre-position men and weapons, and that was when we had a better army. And by all accounts, the Houthis would be as hard as the Afghanis to defeat, between their native tenacity, their very decentralized structure, and the defense-friendly terrain.

Troublingly, it’s not hard if there is not a resolution to this impasse pretty soon, that Israel could see that as justifying a tactical nuclear strike on Yemen or Iran, the Houthi’s sponsor.

We’ll pause for a moment and provide what is hopefully a more complete overview. One came from reader Boomheist yesterday:

A couple days ago it was reported than 45 ships, container, had chosen to reroute around Africa from the Suez and Red Sea. Yesterday reports stated the number was now over 65, I think, plus at least one tanker company, BP, also rerouting its ships. Other headlines this morning are stating that essentially the Red Sea is closed, with a lot of ships on hold awaiting the start of naval escorts.

The governing assumption, looking at the many “X” feeds by those in the maritime sector, seems to be a triumphant sense that hooray, finally the great US Navy and its allies are going to weigh in and snuff out the Houthis and thus re-secure the Red Sea approaches and the traffic. Within a few days we will see Operation [Prosperity] Guardian stand up and shortly after see the Houthis rendered toothless; ie, these armed destroyers will shoot down all the drones and missiles fired, as one US destroyer claimed the other day with shooting down 14 missiles and drones. Yet we see some other feeds doing some math showing the total number of such protective missiles aboard naval ships is limited to, perhaps, 800 and if the Houthis have thousands of smaller missiles and drones they can then overwhelm this naval task force and render the empire toothless. It is one thing to wave the flag and steam around looking scary. It will be another if a drone swarm overpowers a destroyer and takes it out of action, even sinks it, or if a swarm damages a commercial ship being protected by this naval force.

One scenario, the triumphant one, holds that this Operation [Prosperity] Guardian will show to one and all the US Navy and allies are Not to be Messed With and the Houthi dangers an irritant that can be handled such that Red Sea traffic resumes and this blip in world trade and Suez use will return to normal within a week or two. The other scenario, the pessimistic one, holds that the naval task force is toothless against drone swarms and damaged commercial ships, such that the Suez eventually closes and world trade is chaotically disrupted.

The latter scenario has another element – let’s for the moment assume Those in the Know know full well the current situation, thousands of Houthi asymmetrical weapons, can overwhelm whatever this task force has over a very short time period. Then the only solution is to somehow reduce that number, by blasting storage depots and also by directly attacking Iran and China, the assumed sources of at least the missiles. This will take time, during which the Suez remains closed. This will become a war between the US and Iran and maybe even China.

If this asymmetrical swarm warfare against US Naval vessels (and this includes carrier task forces btw) can neutralize naval threats, then unless and until the source of those weapons is neutralized the ability of navies to protect commercial shipping, or protect distant military operations (think Taiwan) is rendered moot.

We seem to be facing a paradigm shifting threat and moment.

Either the Empire still has serious Teeth or will be shown to be Toothless.

As a former sailor aboard container vessels transiting the Suez and Red Sea passage many times and someone who has also worked aboard Military Sealift Command ships – those that will feed the supply chain if necessary – I have little doubt that we can come up with the sailors and ships needed to get supplies to remote locations, though this will require a major effort and serious changes in how we make sure the US industrial base has the capacity to manufacture missiles and weapons and shipyards to grow the fleet. I have far more doubt this country has the political ability and will to take the steps, right now, to make this happen. I fear that if the Houthis manage to show Operation [Prosperity] Guardian a toothless enterprise then the gap between awareness of what we need to do and our ability to make it happen will have devastating consequences.

Many stories this week about US ability to produce weapons to refill Ukrainian coffers, mostly artillery shells, which everyone knows is very limited. Combine that with now the need to supply Israel, also from limited stocks and a seemingly short capacity for backfill manufacture. What about the annual ability to crank out missiles and weapons to replace those 800 missiles aboard the ships in Operation [Prosperity] Guardian? Can this even be done? Maybe this can happen right sway, a stroke of the pen to redirect plants in the US to start producing more missiles. Maybe this is already happening. Then, of course, if the US and other nations have the back supply chain ability to keep feeding the military effort, and IF the naval ships, properly supplied, can hit all the drones coming their way, then within a few days the Houthi threat will be seen as a fiction and all will return to normal – ie, Suez traffic reopens and the trade shock neutralized. The pressure to accede to a cease fire in Palestine is relieved.

In World War 2 the US had an enormous primary manufacturing base, plants galore to produce vehicles, steel, machinery, clothing, etc. You don;t hear much about this now but when WW2 began the US basically set up a government controlled system, with rationing and government control of all industry, requiring auto plants to produce, say, jeeps and tanks, others to make military airplanes, others to make combat boots and uniforms, etc. the US had the industrial base and took steps to control the supply system. Today it seems that base is a shadow of its former self and nowhere does it appear that the US is ready to go to a war footing and force the changes adopted during WW2.

Hopefully this naval task force manages to render the Houthi attacks moot within a very short time, before the back supply chain limits take effect, providing an Operation [Prosperity] Guardian victory. If not, the world sees that those naval vessels cannot defend the Houthi attacks as Operation [Prosperity] Guardian runs out of ammunition within a few days or weeks, all while the Red Sea and Suez remain essentially or actually closed.

A new post at Responsible Statecraft confirms this overview. From its opening section:

According to the Department of Defense, the Houthis have conducted 100 drone and ballistic missile attacks since Oct. 7, targeting cargo vessels involving more than 35 flags from different nations in the Red Sea, including U.S Navy destroyers. Most have been intercepted, though some have hit their targets, causing minor injuries and damage. But with the hijacking of one ship, plus the major disruptions to shipping (the Houthis are blocking an estimated $10 million in cargo a day) and resulting price hikes, the situation has put security in the region on high alert.

It is also costing the United States a pretty penny to act as the key defender of these predominant global shipping lanes. Each munition used to shoot down the Houthi missiles and drones costs between $1 million and $4.3 million and the ships cannot reload at sea and will have to return to port — perhaps Djibouti? — to reload if the kinetic activity goes on much longer, according to experts that talked to Responsible Statecraft this week.

Let’s stop here for a second. None of the participants in Operation Prosperity Guardian have naval bases on the Red Sea. In addition the article seems very confident that even though the Houthis can make defending the waterways a very costly exercise, “There is a lot in the stockpile.” But it does add:

The Houthis have said they will target the ships and U.S. Navy in the Red Sea until Israel stops its bombardment of Palestinians in Gaza. If this video is any indication, the new Operation Prosperity Guardian is going to have its hands full, and millions more dollars in U.S. missile interceptors will be expended before this situation is resolved.

Responsible Statecraft skips over the fact that the Houthis hit a moving ship (25 knots, apparently) with a ballistic missile, which is seen as a worrisome accomplishment. There is debate in the X-verse as to how fancy a ballistic missile it is. Iran fans point out Iran has even better weaponry…but they are very unlikely to have given their best kit to the Houthis:

Other commentators warn against underestimating the Houthis:

A related development. Symbolic but confirms growing Israel isolation:

More telling:

It has been an open secret even before the Millennium 2002 games, in which a Team Red almost sunk a pretend aircraft carrier in a very elaborately staged war games meant to simulate an attack on Iran, that those ships are big fat targets with little utility. The Millennium 2002 exercise further showed how vulnerable they were to low-tech attacks. Since then, great increases in surveillance technology, particularly drones, precision targeting, yet our surface ships seem not to have made commensurate advances.

Below we will repost an important new piece by John Helmer, which makes some essential points, starting with Yemen has the right to restrict military transit in its territorial waters, and Operation Prosperity Guardian looks set to violate that. Of course, the Houthis are not state actors…but it sure looks like the Collective West willy nilly launched this scheme without getting Yemen’s consent.

By John Helmer, the longest continuously serving foreign correspondent in Russia, and the only western journalist to direct his own bureau independent of single national or commercial ties. Helmer has also been a professor of political science, and an advisor to government heads in Greece, the United States, and Asia. He is the first and only member of a US presidential administration (Jimmy Carter) to establish himself in Russia. Originally published at Dances with Bears

On Monday, General Lloyd Austin (lead image, left), the US Secretary of Defense, announced that the US is assembling a fleet of warships to defend Israel’s port of Eilat, the Gulf of Aqaba, and Israel’s Red Sea shipping route by threatening to attack Yemen if it exercises its Law of the Sea right to regulate military transit through the Bab el-Mandeb Strait (lead image, right).

The Austin fleet is to be assembled from the coalition of NATO states at war with Russia in the Ukraine.  Austin’s call, announced by the Pentagon while Austin is in Israel,  follows the failure of the USS Eisenhower and its squadron, with additional French and British warships, to prevent the collapse of commercial container and tanker shipping to and from Israel.

“The recent escalation in reckless Houthi attacks originating from Yemen,” Austin announced,  “threatens the free flow of commerce, endangers innocent mariners, and violates international law. The Red Sea is a critical waterway that has been essential to freedom of navigation and a major commercial corridor that facilitates international trade. Countries that seek to uphold the foundational principle of freedom of navigation must come together to tackle the challenge posed by this non-state actor launching ballistic missiles and uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs) at merchant vessels from many nations lawfully transiting international waters.”

“This is an international challenge that demands collective action. Therefore, today I am announcing the establishment of Operation Prosperity Guardian, an important new multinational security initiative under the umbrella of the Combined Maritime Forces and the leadership of its Task Force 153, which focuses on security in the Red Sea. Operation Prosperity Guardian is bringing together multiple countries to include the United Kingdom, Bahrain, Canada, France, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Seychelles and Spain, to jointly address security challenges in the southern Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, with the goal of ensuring freedom of navigation for all countries and bolstering regional security and prosperity.”

Bahrain on the Persian Gulf — the only Arab state included on Austin’s list — and the Seychelles, the island state in the Indian Ocean, are included to provide shore base facilities for the proposed Yemen-attack fleet. However, no country with naval bases on the Red Sea shore, territorial waters,  and exclusive economic zones extending into the waterway  — Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Egypt, Sudan, Eritrea, and Djibouti  — has publicly agreed to participate or approved this escalation of the Gaza war to benefit Israel.

The Pentagon has also asked the Australian Navy for a frigate to join the Red Sea fleet, but the Australian government in Canberra is reluctant to agree, and Austin has dropped the country from his list.

All of the governments on Austin’s list, with the exception of the US, voted last week at the United Nations General Assembly for Israel to halt its operations in the Gaza war.  In this context, none of these states recognizes Israel’s right to impose its blockade of Gaza’s ports extending into Palestine’s territorial waters, the Gaza Maritime Area, and Israel’s de facto military rule of the international waters of the Mediterranean, including the Gaza Marine gas field. 

“Freedom of navigation”, Austin’s version of the legal doctrine of his Operation Prosperity Guardian, does not apply to the Gaza Maritime Area.

In the Red Sea, maps of the International Institute for the Law of the Sea Studies   show overlapping territorial waters and economic zone claims from the eastern and western shore states, leaving no international waters for the passage of warships, particularly through the southern gateway to the Red Sea, the Bab el-Mandeb Strait.  Austin’s operation is not innocent passage, as the international Law of the Sea requires, and it defies Yemen’s right to exercise prior authorization.

Russia’s response is no response, for the time being.

For a summary up to 2021 of the military record and the international law claims for the Red Sea and the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, read this.



In an interview with a Russian-speaking American on Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov did not explicitly address the new US intervention plan in the Middle East.

He did say that “Europe and the United States are now rushing in the Middle East, calling on the Lebanese, Iranians, Iraqis, and Syrians to do everything so that the war in Gaza does not spread to the surrounding territories. Perhaps they need to apply the same fervour to ensure that this does not happen in Ukraine.”

Also on Monday, in the Moscow newspaper Vedomosti, it was reported that Russian experts expect “most likely, the Americans will launch missile and bomb attacks on command centres and military depots of the Houthis, or targeted strikes by special forces may follow in order to eliminate the commanders of the movement. The operation will be roughly comparable to the actions of Western allies in Syria or Iraq.”

The newspaper claimed that, according to its source, “the military forces of Saudi Arabia and the UAE may participate in the operation – their armed forces and their proxies have been waging a sluggish war against Iran’s allies in Yemen since 2015. I think the Arab monarchies themselves would like to involve the Americans in the conflict, but it will not come to a full–scale war.”

The implication is that the Foreign Ministry, Defense Ministry, and Kremlin are reluctant to publicly condemn the Austin fleet operation move so as not to upset current Russian relationships with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

What this means for Russia’s relationship with Iran materialized on Monday afternoon when the Iranian Ambassador to Moscow, Kasem Jilali, asked for a meeting at the Foreign Ministry, and met Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov. If Yemen and the Red Sea were discussed, the official communiqué is keeping it secret. “During the conversation,” the ministry release says, “the Middle East agenda was discussed in detail, with an emphasis on developments in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict zone. There was general concern about the ongoing escalation in the Gaza Strip. The importance of intensifying international efforts aimed at an early ceasefire, providing humanitarian assistance to the civilian population and turning the situation into a political channel was stressed. The issues of the Syrian settlement were also touched upon, including the continuation of close coordination of efforts between Russia and Iran in the Astana format  in the interests of supporting the unity, territorial integrity and sovereignty of the SA [Syrian Arab Republic]”.

For analysis of the most recent round of Russian-Iranian negotiations, click to read.

In the past, Moscow officials have consistently defended the Yemeni state’s sovereignty, including its territorial waters in the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, and the Bab el-Mandeb Strait. The Ministry has also defended “dialogue with the Houthis and other Yemeni political associations, as well as with all interested states”.

Russia has also proposed that the United Nations legalize and regulate all operations impacting Yemen.

But that was long ago. The last but one statement by the Russian Foreign Ministry mentioning the Houthis, the civil war in Yemen, and Saudi military intervention was issued six and a half years ago, on March 17, 2017:  “We reaffirm our fundamental position in favour of an early cessation of hostilities and the resumption of a negotiation process in the Republic of Yemen, taking into account the interests of all leading political forces in the country. We continue to believe that the unilateral steps taken by the parties to the conflict, including the current court ruling, as well as the sea and air blockade of certain regions of Yemen controlled by the Houthis and Saleh supporters, are not conducive to creating a favourable environment for restoring trust and restarting the dialogue, and put off the prospects for a peaceful resolution of the crisis, which is so much needed by the long-suffering Yemeni people.”

Abdulmalik Al-Mekhlafi meets Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, January 22, 2018.

In January 2018, Abdulmalik Al-Mekhlafi, Foreign Minister of the Aden-based Yemeni government,  met Lavrov in Moscow for talks.  “We believe,” Lavrov said at the press conference following their negotiations, “that the UN should henceforth be able to deliver humanitarian aid to Sanaa without fail. It is important to strive to lift the sea and air blockade, to remove all limitations on the deliveries of food, medicines and other prime necessities to all regions of Yemen with no exceptions…Yemen’s Foreign Minister Abdulmalik Al-Mekhlafi and we have agreed to maintain close contacts both directly and via our embassy in Yemen, which due to security reasons has been recently relocated from Sanaa to Riyadh. At the same time, we will continue our dialogue with the Houthis and other Yemeni political associations, as well as with all interested states, including the Arab coalition, on which the further developments in the country and around it depend. We will urge everyone who can contribute to the settlement and the transition from war to a political dialogue to do so as soon as possible.

There is no Foreign Ministry record of a meeting with Hisham Sharaf, Foreign Minister since 2016 of the Sanaa-based Yemeni (Houthi) government. The Russian Embassy in Sanaa was evacuated in December 2017.

In November 2019, Moscow appeared to be saying the only international Red Sea operation it would countenance for Yemen should be led by the United Nations (UN). “We”, declared the Ministry’s press department, “urge the parties to the Yemeni conflict to do everything in their power to keep up this positive change so as to be able to stop the hostilities altogether and to launch a UN-led process of peaceful settlement based on the regard for the interests of all the main political forces as well as religious and regional groups in Yemen. We are still convinced that these developments will not only benefit friendly Yemen but will also help to ensure security of all the neighbouring countries.”

The Chinese government approach appears to be different.


On Sunday,   Orient Overseas Container Line (OOCL), the Chinese state-owned fleet company, announced that it is halting all shipments to and from Israeli seaports. However, unlike its European peers, OOCL did not say it will stop sailing through the Red Sea. The implication, a shipping source comments, is that Beijing has declared its support for the Arab-led blockade of Israel, and will negotiate directly with Houthi and Yemeni officials so that OOCL vessels will be able to navigate safely through the Red Sea and into the Suez Canal, and vice versa. The commercial advantage to the Chinese is plain, the source said. Whether the Chinese Navy will send escorts for Chinese-flagged cargo vessels remains to be seen.


1 The initial list, per a Pentagon press release: “United Kingdom, Bahrain, Canada, France, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Seychelles and Spain.”

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  1. NN Cassandra

    We had Operation Iraqi Freedom, the war in Afghanistan was called Operation Enduring Freedom, I just wonder how Operation Prosperity Guardian will end.

    It’s almost as if these people known very well to where they are dragging us all and they want to have the word “prosperity” printed next to their names in newspapers at least at the start, if they can’t hope to have it there when all the dust finally settles.

  2. The Rev Kev

    This is so stupid this. So the US organizes Operation Prosperity Guardian which is a naval version of the Coalition of the Willing. It will have ships from – at a minimum – the US, United Kingdom, Bahrain, Canada, France, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Seychelles and Spain so you are mostly talking about the countries of the Collective West. I can see Saudi Arabia saying ‘Count me out’ and telling the Houthis so. So are they appraised of the full missile and drone capabilities of the Houthis and what they might be holding back? If a coupla ships get hit, are they gunna bomb Yemen? The Houthis have said we have been there, done that and got the t-shirt and they are not backing down. They have declared themselves allies of the Gazans and this is what allies do.

    So here is the thing. Policy makers so often try to use the military to solve every problem. Every problem is a nail for which you need a military hammer. If they had invested in diplomacy instead, here is how it could have played out. Our spooks could have gone to their spooks and cut a deal. They will say that every ship that is en route for Israel will no longer go via the Red Sea but will go via Africa instead. That way, everybody wins. The world can continue to send their ships through the Red sea knowing that they will be safe from attack and insurance rates will drop back to normal. For the Houthies, they can claim a victory as no Israeli bound ship will go through their waters. The Israelis still get their ships but will have to wait a coupla more days for them. And the west saves tens of billions of dollars and not risking have western country navy ships go Winchester on missiles. But it won’t happen. Everybody wins is anathema to them and instead they only play by zero-sum rules.

      1. Polar Socialist

        Even if Israel din’t want to do the humanity thing, the US version of diplomacy still could easily make them to.

    1. nick

      I think your solution sounds like a good one. I agree that the Americans are at the least ill-suited to implement it, but I wonder if this plan is more or less what the Chinese will be trying for. There are clearly reputational and ideological reasons for the US to act militarily but the actual logistical disruption will be squarely hitting Europe-Asia trade and I wonder if US and Canadian interests stand to gain through the comparative improvements with respect to cost and lag time that the Red Sea shutdown imposes on their competitors.

    2. jrkrideau

      As of this morning’s CBC News, Canada is sending 2 planning officers and an intelligence officer. No ships. I wonder if we have any available?

      1. wilroncanada

        3 Canadian navy ships just arrived home in Esquimalt (Vancouver Island) 2 days ago after 4 months in the western Pacific backing up US provocations there. It will be months before they are ready to sail again. In addition Canada, like most of the West, doesn’t have enough sailors to man those ships immediately even if they could. I know you’re also Canadian, jrk. ( my surname ends in ‘EAU’ also)

    3. Daniel Dropkin

      Why won’t the Houthis up the ante and aim their missiles at Saudi oil facilities? That would seem to be the likely response.
      Meanwhile, the neocons who are running our foreign policy will be ecstatic over the possibility of more war and are unlikely to not take advantage of the situation which could led to a war with Iran.

    4. Fazal Majid

      Whatever happens, shipping companies are not going to risk their ships and staff into an active war zone, even with military escorts, so the Houthis’ goal of interdicting traffic into the Red Sea (and thus Israel and Suez) is already achieved.

      Egypt will suffer far more economically than Israel. Egypt met its own Vietnam in Yemen in the 60s—fighting the Houthis’ royalist forebears (then backed by Saudi Arabia, Jordan & Israel!) so it’s not as if Egypt has any influence in Yemen.

      European logistics will be impaired as when that freighter blocked the Suez Canal.

  3. upstater

    It is be renamed “Operation Protect Our Garden” from those jungle dwellers. Gotta keep the oil, LNG, automobiles and tchotchkes from Asia flowing. Maybe we’ll finally see what an LNG tanker explosion looks like.

    1. Eclair

      If we are renaming “Operation Prosperity Guardian,” upstater, I vote for, having just read the “Climate Chaos” post, “Operation 450 PPM.”

      1. What?No!

        From yesterday’s readings, I’m voting for Operation Genocide Guardian staffed by the Coalition of the Killing.

    2. Mikel

      I was having to adjust a blurry screen and actually misread the name as “Operation Prosperity Garden” for a split second.

  4. ilsm

    Thank you for the great analysis.

    Other costs to run this not so novel naval ‘expedition’: moving (limited fuel in orbit) satellites to survey the launches and satellite coms to disseminate warning and targeting, USS Eisenhower is east of the Aden area, at safe distance, likely cannot be safe close enough to do more than a few top gun launches for the TV news….. Arleigh Burk destroyers can run the air defense ‘show’, if any allied ship can coordinate???

    Motion is progress and sells new ships and missiles. Note the next gen Arleigh Burk (Flt III) has a new ‘from whole cloth radar’ and about 3000 tons more displacement to hold the massive electric power needs.

    My background is USAF air defense mostly cold war…. what do I know?

    If Houthis can hit a moving target what can China do?

    I wonder if there is a place in Yemen that rhymes with Tripoli for the next gen USMC hymn?

    1. Joe Well

      Mississippi rhymes with Tripoli.

      Because why can we take our “homeland”‘s invulnerability for granted when we are only protected by paper tigers and white elephants?

      1. hk

        What does “from the halls of Obama to the shores of Mississippi” sound like in Yemeni Arabic? Frightening thought.

  5. MRLost

    Is anyone planning for submerged or semi-submerged drones like the Ukrainians used to attack Russian ships in Sevastopol? It’s one thing for 50 or 100 kilos of explosives to strike the superstructure of a ship and completely different kettle of fish when 1000 kilos of explosives detonate at the waterline. Personally, I would expect it’s much easier to build a submerged or semi-submerged drone rather than a flying one. Cheaper too.

    1. Polar Socialist

      US Navy is developing some, I think many of the one used by Ukrainians are actually from UK. And Russia has some prototypes in testing, too.

      But in general, the submerged and semi-submerged drones are not good for much. They are slow, they are hard to control and their sensor range is very limited. We’ve all sen the pictures of lost drones washed on Crimean shores. And heard the stories how sailors blow them up with heavy machine guns (because they are big and slow). Apparently Russian fighter pilots have fun hunting them in the Black Sea – great gun pass practice once they pick up the the bow waves from high above.

      Probably more usable for reconnaissance or mine laying than direct attacks.

      1. nippersdad

        I have been wondering if they have a means of launching torpedoes. While missiles and drones are sexier these days, if they really wanted to sink something the tried and true torpedo would be the weapon of choice.

        1. Polar Socialist

          I don’t think they do, their navy only has patrol boats. Besides, torpedoes are probably the most difficult weapons in the history of warfare to get right. They are very effective if they hit the target, but they do have a very short range compared to missiles – or even cheap drones.

          They tend to be wire-guided, because it’s really hard (read: expensive) to fit good (long range) sensors in the small space they have – water just sucks up energy. So, they are quite dependent on the launch platforms sensors. And still even the autonomously homing torpedoes are usually set on a course or a search pattern before launching, based on the enemy location revealed by the launch platform sensors.

          I did see a picture on a detachment of Houthi navy with a bunch of sea mines, though. Now, that is a simple and well understood technology that can be used in a very asymmetric way to stop any and all traffic in the Red Sea quickly.

  6. Cristobal

    Thanks for posting this Yves. For me, the last bit in the John Helmer piece about the Chinese OOCL boycotting Isreal and – was this fact or a Helmer supposition? – negotiating safe passage for their ships with the Houthi and Yemeni people was the most intriguing. If the situation continues (and Helmer´s supposition is true), the pressure exerted by the non-Chinese shipping companies having destinations other than Isreal will increase as they lose business to the OOCL. This could result in the mighty naval force being redundent, its only purpose being to protect ships going to or from Isreal. As Yves notes, blockaid of Isreali shipping was what the Houthi actually intended. Does it look like the US and their obedient press lackies have conflated this action directed against Isreal into a supposed terrorist act directed against global peace and prosperity?

    Two other items worth considering: one, the Gulf states (who are not a part of this US/NATO coalition, and coincidentally are the same countries that are arming and supporting Ukraine) declared some time ago that they are capable of guaranting the safety of shipping theirownselves, no help need thank you. The second point is that, as mentioned in a post yesterday, the Suez Canal transit fees are a major source of income for Egypt. What do they think of all this?

    It looks like things are coming to a head. As it develops we must be careful not to believe our own propaganda.

    1. Beyond the rubicoN

      Yea, I agree hopefully the plan dosent backfire and cause the Egyptians to take a debt write down and accept the Palestinians into the Sinai due to lost revenues from Suez canal tolls. If the OOCL note is correct that could partially offset the diminished revenue.

      And I might add show the impotence of certain geopolitical analysts rantings about the necessity of US naval assets as essential to freedom of navigation.

    2. Greg

      Does it look like the US and their obedient press lackies have conflated this action directed against Isreal into a supposed terrorist act directed against global peace and prosperity?

      Yes, and. It looks like the shipping companies have conflated an Israeli blockade with a Suez blockade, probably for profit-seeking reasons. The indispensable Sal Mercogliano has pondered the profit motive in several of his recent threads

      It looks like the US and allies are doing the same for purposes of starting a war they hope to extend to Iran. Maybe this is the middle eastern version of Ukraine – a proxy war in Yemen to weaken Iran, which ends up strengthening Iran.

  7. Froghole

    Yemen was especially susceptible to pan-Arabism from the late 1950s. The Houthi affinity with the plight of Palestinians in Gaza is therefore of little surprise. If the West thinks it can have any more success in suppressing Yemen than Saudi Arabia, then it would seem that there is scarcely any limit to Western presumption and arrogance. Given the excruciating experience of the British in Aden and Southern Arabia from 1962 (when the Shia imam of Yemen was deposed) until the final evacuation in 1967, I would have thought that the UK – if it had any sense – would want to keep a very wide berth of Yemen.

    Indeed, it is noteworthy that the two instances in the history of the British empire when the UK abandoned its ‘mission’, almost like a thief in the night, were Palestine in 1948 (where the UK deliberately ceased to perform any police duties, and scuttled its mandate at Haifa) and Aden in 1967 (where the bullets whistled past high commissioner Trevelyan) as the British military scurried away by helicopter.

    1. Feral Finster

      The british live to service their American Masters, and stir up trouble around the globe so that when America gets involved, the british can show what loyal little poodles they are!

    2. Bsn

      As Mercouris often says “I’m no military expert” but I remember thinking about this during the Falklands war. One (exocet?) missile taking out a British warship. The entire concept of a strong, powerful navy using 1950’s technology being effective is, well, idiotic.

  8. Piotr Berman

    Seychelles may play a key part. When everybody goes nuts, the question arises who has bigger nuts, and apparently, the largest nuts in the world grow in Seychelles, reaching 100 lb, check “coco de mer” in Wikipedia. The habitat of the respective trees is restricted to two islands, but that may suffice as nuts are used in command centers, think tanks etc., so ca. 100 well placed nuts can imbue the allied operation with sufficient nutty.

    1. NN Cassandra

      Actually, I think they may be quite handy. If the Yemen guys play this smartly, they will start sinking Seychelles ships and work their way up. Then Biden has time at least until Queen Elizabeth is at the bottom of ocean to make honorable retreat.

  9. Vicky Cookies

    Technically speaking, that is, de jure, does the U.S/NATO/Coalition of the Willing/whatever need UNSC approval for a “multinational security initiative”? Would these warships, like the Eisenhower, park themselves in the Med?
    To review: the U.S. is supplying and funding, including unilateral moves from the executive to bypass congressional approval, the genocide of the Palestinians, and is now to provide Israel with more direct military support to shield it from any consequences.

    Re: “Prosperity Guardian”. I have no words, but Mark Twain had a few; he re-wrote the Battle Hymn of the Republic upon the U.S. takeover of the Philippines:

    “Mine eyes have seen the orgy of the launching of the Sword;
    He is searching out the hoardings where the stranger’s wealth is stored;
    He hath loosed his fateful lightnings, and with woe and death has scored;
    His lust is marching on.

    I have seen him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps;
    They have builded him an altar in the Eastern dews and damps;
    I have read his doomful mission by the dim and flaring lamps —
    His night is marching on.

    I have read his bandit gospel writ in burnished rows of steel:
    “As ye deal with my pretensions, so with you my wrath shall deal;
    Let the faithless son of Freedom crush the patriot with his heel;
    Lo, Greed is marching on!”

    In a sordid slime harmonious Greed was born in yonder ditch,
    With a longing in his bosom — and for others’ goods an itch.
    As Christ died to make men holy, let men die to make us rich —
    Our god is marching on.”

    1. nippersdad

      “Technically speaking, that is, de jure, does the U.S/NATO/Coalition of the Willing/whatever need UNSC approval for a “multinational security initiative”?”

      They didn’t have one for Iraq II or Syria, and I suspect they could not get one for this operation, either, seeing as how it is in aid of a genocidal government under cover of free navigation of the seas. The point made about China getting an agreement with the Houthis to pass through the Red Sea is a good one. If there were a comprehensive diplomatic solution to boycott Israel bound ships leaving everyone else free to transit the Red Sea it would likely have to go through the UN, and the UN is not playing well with the US these days.

    2. scott s.

      The US-sponsored Combined Maritime Command is a “coalition of the willing” I suppose generally takes authority from customary international law re piracy. Self defense seems always to be allowed. UKMTO is also involved as a data collection/dissemination project.

  10. nippersdad

    It must have really taken a lot of arm twisting to get Bahrain into the coalition of the willing this time. In addition to a gas plant onshore, they have a brand new offshore oil terminal at risk of going boom. It has been pointed out that normalization of Saudi Arabia and Iran directly followed an attack on Saudi oil infrastructure by the Houthis, and the Bahrainis have a smaller infrastructure and therefore much more to lose than did Saudi Arabia.

  11. TimD

    I wonder what the ROI, Return on Imperialism, is looking like for the US’ carte blanche support of Israel? The Rules-Based order facilitates the genocide of Palestinians, ignores international law and earns disdain from the majority of the world. I can’t see this latest move as helping the US one bit.

  12. Camelotkidd

    Larry Johnson makes some interesting points about US naval capabilities–“What happens when Yemen fires 100 drones/rockets/missiles at a U.S. carrier? The U.S. destroyer, or multiple destroyers will fire their missiles to defeat the threat. Great. Mission accomplished! Only one little problem, as described in the preceding quote — the U.S. Navy got rid of the ship tenders, i.e. those vessels capable of resupplying destroyers with new missiles to replace the expended rounds. In order to reload, that destroyer must sail to the nearest friendly port where the U.S. has stockpiled missiles for resupply.

    Got the picture? If the destroyer must sail away then the U.S. carrier must follow. It cannot just sit out in the ocean without its defensive screen of ships. The staying power of a U.S. fleet in a combat zone, like Yemen, is a function of how many missiles the Yemenis fire at the U.S. ships.”

    Much of this was a result of Donald Rumsfeld’s “Revolution in Military Affairs”, where many of things that the US military did in house was “privatized”, with contractors taking over core activities.
    It’s all rather darkly humorous and is another factor confirming my priors that it’s almost impossible to manage an empire with neoliberalism as your operating system

    1. HH

      As far as I know, there is no at-sea reloading system deployed for the vertical-launch missile systems on U.S. surface combatants. This means that a saturation attack will leave the vessel defenseless. Reloading requires returning to an (intact) base.

  13. Mikel

    “Troublingly, it’s not hard if there is not a resolution to this impasse pretty soon, that Israel could see that as justifying a tactical nuclear strike on Yemen or Iran, the Houthi’s sponsor.”

    Somebody needs to explain to me how fallout from any nuclear strike, which I’m assuming will blow around, is going to be good for traveling or shipping through the area – long term.
    Some hyperbole here: Are people going to be receiving packages that glow?

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      It would be presumably intended as a shock and awe weapon, a warning of what would come next. An article in Defense One argued that even if those evil Rooskies were to use a small nuke on Kiev (a city of 3 million), it would have horrible local effects but not much lasting effect (ex presumably creating a dead zone for a while):

      How much damage could one of these do? The answer depends greatly on where it was used. The online tool NukeMap suggests that a 20-kiloton attack on Kyiv would kill more than 31,000 people and injure another 65,000 within 24 hours. Even those numbers may be a big underestimation.

      Michael Frankel, one of the 2017 paper’s authors and a former fellow at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab, told Defense One via email, “The immediate (prompt) effects would be pretty horrific if you were caught unprotected within a few kilometers, and the military application would presumably be intended to annihilate local concentrations of enemy troops (if they were stupid enough to concentrate in a way that provided such a target), or perhaps important supply depots and such like.”

      But Frankel said such a weapon, used on the actual Ukrainian battlefield against military forces, wouldn’t yield a big advantage for Russia. “It is still hard to think of many targets that might be ‘worthy’ of use of nuclear weapons as just another battlefield explosive, albeit a big one,” he wrote….

      “A five-kiloton nuclear explosion will be an effective killer – but only over a relatively short distance, probably less than 1 or 1.5 km. Chances of surviving such a blast (along with any heavy equipment) are pretty good once you get beyond that distance, and beyond two kilometers even better. So to use a nuke to halt or throw back a twenty or thirty kilometer long front advance does not seem feasible,” Frankel wrote….

      Nuclear fallout and secondary environmental, radiological effects are part of the point of strategic weapons, which are meant to be maximally destructive. Fallout is much more of a bug than a feature with tactical weapons—and one that isn’t easily gotten rid of, the Johns Hopkins authors wrote.

      “Pure fusion, without the use of any fission trigger, remains the gold standard for a ‘usable’ nuclear weapon in the sense that such a weapon would be fallout free. Additionally, the resulting blast environment would be reduced, whereas the prompt radiation footprint would be increased—a particularly effective combination if such weapons are to be used against enemy ground forces on friendly territory. However, pure fusion, at yields sufficient for warfighting applications, would be extremely difficult to achieve,” they wrote..

      That means that any weapon that Russia used in Ukraine would poison a much larger area than its specific target. And there aren’t any good means to predict just how far that pollution and contamination might reach. Edward Geist, a policy researcher at the RAND Corporation, recently argued on Twitter that the Cold War studies that the United States’s did on the effects of tactical nuclear weapons “were mostly derived from simplified physical/computational models and validated where possible from the available test data, *not* derived from first principles. As a consequence, these models could potentially be extremely misleading and fail to predict catastrophic collateral effects. One such effect is rainout/washout from a nuclear explosion, which could result from the use of low-yield nuclear weapons such as those possessed by Russia.”

      Yemen and Israel are over 2200 km apart.

      1. Michaelmas

        DefenceOne: “However, pure fusion, at yields sufficient for warfighting applications, would be extremely difficult to achieve,” they wrote..”

        Ridiculous. For ‘extremely difficult’ read impossible. Full stop.

        Despite the many millions of dollars spent by the U.S. between 1952 and 1992 to produce a pure fusion weapon, no measurable success was ever achieved. In 1998, the U.S. Department of Energy released a restricted data declassification decision stating … the power densities needed to ignite a fusion reaction still seem attainable only with the aid of a fission explosion, or with …powerful lasers like those at the National Ignition Facility, the Sandia Z-pinch machine, or various magnetic tokamaks.

        BUT today’s dial-a-yield thermonuclear weapons, on the other hand, do permit adjustment of what kind of blast and particle release you get. Hence, some can be adjusted to function as neutron bombs, to some greater or lesser extent.

        Fallout would, accordingly, also be obviated to some extent.

      2. XXYY

        … the military application [of nuclear weapons] would presumably be intended to annihilate local concentrations of enemy troops (if they were stupid enough to concentrate in a way that provided such a target).

        This is an interesting though perhaps unintended point. One of the big changes we have seen in the Ukraine war is the effect of recent improvements in surveillance and precision targeting. The upshot is that if more than two or three soldiers gather together, they are very likely to be killed by the opposing army. What Ukraine has been doing lately is scattering it forces among residential housing, and they will surreptitiously gather immediately before some kind of collective operation. Any kind of structure or base or runway is nothing more than a fat, juicy target; same with a large formation of soldiers training or marching (or sleeping!).

        Most of the gigantic bombs developed during the 20th century implicitly assumed that there would be similarly gigantic military targets for them to be used against. This assumption seems like it’s not going to be true on future battlefields. So in the future, nuclear weapons will have no utility as a military munition, and will only be useful if the goal is to just create maximum mayhem against a civilian population.

  14. Feral Finster

    “So what might next steps be, if the big bad Western forces fail to trounce the Houthis quickly? Maybe the Biden Administration works up the nerve to tell Israel no more weapons for you if you don’t cut it out in Gaza.”

    Expect to hear “Muh Western Credibility Is At Stake” and increasing pressure on Saudi Arabia to join in, directly or indirectly. Along with a litany of atrocity porn directed at Ansarallah.

    Of course, if the US and its Coalition of the Killing is successful, expect to hear chants of “U-S-A” and assurances that intervention in Ukraine will be a “cakewalk”.

    1. Synoia

      If t Saudi Arabia enters, the fray I wish them luck guarding all those undefended desert-spanning pipelines.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        The Saudi’s (and other Gulf States) have been engaged in a hot war against the Houthi since 2016, they are already very much part of the fray.

      2. Feral Finster

        Of course intervention will be a disaster for The Tragic Kingdom (can you imagine the reaction when Saudi Arabia goes to war on behalf of Israel?), but since when did the US care about its puppets. lackeys, satraps and vassals?

    2. EY Oakland

      Not sure about the Biden administration “working up the nerve” to curb Israel. See how far the US is willing to go in support of Netenyahu and the Israeli right. The US is so far staunchly facing down world condemnation. The Biden negative polls are very much worrying the Dems and they are not going to risk loss of serious donor money in this upcoming election year. And I keep remembering George Bush Jr.’s boast to the press “I’m a war president!” – Americans’ patriotism is activated by war, perhaps a lift in the poll numbers is factored into the weighing of such escalations.

      1. Feral Finster

        Exactly. The Biden Administration is crying crocodile tears over Gaza, and that only because the PR situation is deteriorating by the day.

      2. CarlH

        I hope that Americans are now quite fatigued by the constant wars and that their support for them is not as reliable as it once was. That seems to be the mood amongst my friends and acquaintances at least.

    3. John k

      I assume and hope the Iran/saudi agreements, perhaps encouraged by the israel genocide, precludes saudi joining the west. Plus the saudi street might be highly supportive of Houthi aims.
      I similarly hope the Jordanian street forces the king into neutrality, granted less likely.

  15. hemeantwell

    Where can we turn for reliable updates on this situation? I’ve taken to looking at comments at Moon of Alabama’s Palestine threads to get a rough idea, but the signal to noise ratio can get pretty bad there.

  16. Aurelien

    I’d love to know what the operational plan for this deployment is, assuming there is one.
    Deployments of naval forces like this are classically to escort civilian ships through areas which might be mined where they might be attacked by pirates, or potentially subject to attacks by enemy naval forces. Alternatively, they can be used to deliver forces in power projection operations, from anything from evacuations and disaster relief up to a full-scale invasion. But as far as I know this is the first time that a naval force has been deployed essentially against a land-based threat, essentially built around missiles, but capable of turning up in other, unexpected forms.

    In theory, the naval ships could protect the commercial shipping by intercepting missiles intended for them. But in practice, I suspect that it’s the naval ships that will be the targets, because even one frigate damaged with lives lost would put the international coalition in question. In theory, some of the ships could use missiles to attack land-based targets, but it’s not clear whether there are really any of enough value, given the decentralised way in which the Houthis seem to be organised. Such attacks (and any air attacks the US intends to launch) will largely be symbolic, and won’t actually address the problem.

    That’s mainly because the Houthis have the initiative. Their objective, after all, is to stop shipping from moving, and it doesn’t matter how that’s achieved. They might simply decide not to fire any missiles for a week or two, and then just when the shipping lines think it’s safe to start operating again, they launch a few salvoes. It doesn’t matter whether they sink any ships, it’s the wider effect that counts. Meanwhile, the naval force is steaming up and down looking menacing, but with nothing to do. Indeed, it’s quite possible that i the end it would be the naval ships that become the targets, while the ships they are supposed to be protecting are nowhere to be seen.

    One of the principles of war is to seize and hold the initiative. As I say, I think the Houthis have the initiative.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      I assume that the US has been sharing satellite data with the Saudis, which would mean that any Houthi facility that has been identified has already been attacked and destroyed (there is a clip circulating from earlier in the year of a monster explosion when the Saudis attacked a Houthi rocket factory). So its pretty safe to assume that the US doesn’t know of any targets it can hit.

      So yes, the Houthis are in full control of this so far. What I’d be interested to know is their aims given that this doesn’t really seem to help them achieve their primary aim – control over Yemen. Is it to embarrass RSA and UAE over their crocodile tears over Gaza? Is it a genuine attempt to help allies? Is Iran pulling the strings and if so, why?

      Whichever way you look at it, its a gigantic failure by the US to foresee that the Houthis would get involved and would have the capacity to do so much damage. They could have pulled the leash on RSA at any time and stopped the destruction of Yemen. Its a colossal failure.

      1. steppenwolf fetchit

        Why might Iran or someone else want to pull strings to activate this Houthi involvement?

        To “overextend and unbalance” America, perhaps?

    2. Mikel

      “In theory, some of the ships could use missiles to attack land-based targets, but it’s not clear whether there are really any of enough value, given the decentralised way in which the Houthis seem to be organised.”

      As long as there is active concern about lives of non-combatants or collateral damage.

    3. John k

      Imo we’re seeing the end of gunboat diplomacy, and particularly the waning usefulness of carriers.
      Drones and missiles are cheap vs, say, manned ships and planes. Plus they’re rapidly increasing in range, accuracy and deliverable explosiveness. Drones even somewhat replace satellite imagery.
      Big countries bullying small ones is becoming much more difficult even as us power wanes, accelerated by waning mfg base.
      Seems we live in the most interesting of times since at least 1942.

        1. Polar Socialist

          PLAN has more ships than US Navy, but only fraction of the carriers.

          I assume their paradigm is the carriers (or their fighters) protecting the PLAN fleet operating in South China Sea or the Second Island Chain (both way outside land based air cover), whereas in US Navy everything is about protecting the carriers that will do the power projection.

          I’d say the ship launched cruise missiles are more of a challenge to the carriers (see: punishment of Syria for alleged use of chemical weapons) than the anti-ship missiles. There’s no need for aerial bombing anymore (see: Ukrainian air defenses and electric grid), unless one really needs to have eyes on target before delivering the payload.

          The one thing aircrafts do better than ships in blue sea navies is reconnaissance. And
          naturally screening to prevent reconnaissance from the enemy. The light cavalry of the seas, if you will.

      1. XXYY

        The era of large surface military ships ended a couple of decades ago when anti-ship missiles became widespread. Seems like what navies have been doing since then is trying to figure out how far offshore they need to keep their ships in order to stay out of range of missiles. For carriers, the question becomes whether the planes on the carrier have more reach than the missiles on shore. At this point, the answer is pretty much no, I think.

        Of course, people who have made their careers in various national navies want to see bigger and better ships under their commands as a cultural imperative, and it’s going to take a lot of time and a lot of sailors dying for the point to get through their heads that ships are doing more harm than good in wartime.

    4. Greg

      For historical precedents, I seem to recall that some of the original gunboat diplomacy ( involved british ships going and bombarding shore-based “enemies” in pursuit of one vaguely defined goal or another.
      There was French ships sitting off shore and plinking away at “probably some bad guys in that bush” mentioned in stories of the early Vietnam war(s) as well (or maybe I’m misremembering something from The Heart of Darkness).

      1. eg

        That incident with the French warship pointlessly shelling the jungle is in Heart of Darkness for sure — it’s quite possible that similar inanity took place in the Vietnam war.

  17. J_Schneider

    US Navy doesn’t have a choice. It has to assert that it is the maste of sea lanes. And that is integral part of current Biden’s policy, read what Fiona Hill said. On Axis of Evil side this is a bait to US Navy to force US to deploy precious maritime assets, keep them in place for long time which will have big impact on maintenance and crews. Deploying 3 aircraft carriers to Middle East is operationally dangerous decissions because only one of 3 carriers normally sails and two are in docks for maintenance and training. The Axis will likely paly it as cat and mouse game just to make sure that US Navy stays in for long time. From commercial point of view the Operation makes little sense as there is enough capacity in shipping and rates are rather low. Sailing around Cape of Horn will cost $1 million to $2m more which is nothing for a container ship caryying 10 000 conatiners with goods worth $200 million. Joining a convoy under US Navy protection will likely result in rather high cargo and vessel insurance so economically there will be no benefit for consumers. For US Navy this may be an opportunity to harras tankers carrying RUS oil to Asia.

  18. Greg

    Re: missile numbers, I’ve struggled to find good data (probably for good security reasons) on just how many there are on the fleet and in storage.

    The most cells per ship is the Ticonderoga class missile cruisers with ~120 cells ( and the Arleigh-Burke class DDGs like USS Carney, with ~90 cells (

    The main interceptors in use are the Sea-Sparrow (repurposed air to air, shortest range, limited capability SM2 (cheaper (~$500k to $2m ea), older, short range and SM6 (more expensive, newer, medium range

    Sea sparrow is a fancied up AIM-7 air to air interceptor fired from a ground/sea launch platform, with all the problems that brings. These can be quad packed into launch cells, so “800 missiles in the fleet” probably assumes a bunch of these. There’s an upgraded version based on the AIM-120 that is basically NASAMS-at-sea. NASAMS haven’t done great in Ukraine so assume a lot of missiles used per intercept.

    SM2 and SM6 are one-per-VLS-cell, so you get a lot fewer per ship.

    SM2 was out of production until 2017 when Raytheon restarted production and there have been a few orders since
    Based on the numbers touted and the timeframes, production is probably about 100 per year, maybe twice that at most. In total, 5000 were made previously

    SM6 started production in 2009 and has somewhere between 500 and 1800 built. This one can have a crack at ballistics, but you’d want to launch a bunch to have a reasonable chance. Successful tests in good conditions used two missiles per incoming (there were also unsuccessful tests…). It’s bigger and more expensive, and from the wiki “The SM-6 is not meant to replace the SM-2 series of missiles but will serve alongside and provide extended range and increased firepower.” which is fascinating given production of the SM2 was discontinued when SM6 ramped up.

    So what do I take from all this?
    Probably the “800 missiles” is more like 400 in practical terms, because there’s a bunch of land and sea attack missiles taking up space. That can probably be cycled a time or two using stocks at Djibouti or that can be flown into Djibouti. But it’s also a serious chunk of total all-time production, and the annual rate of replenishment across all types is probably in the range of 3-500 missiles.
    A total of 400 missiles is probably good for taking out 2-300 drones, unless they’re attacking the ships carrying them, in which case probably only 200 drones.
    And each ship only has 100 at most, probably more like 50 on average since they’re not all Arleigh-Burke or Ticonderoga class, so a salvo barrage targeting one ship and out of range of the others probably only needs 30-50 drones to ensure leakers. Many fewer if ballistics are involved. Seems viable.

  19. nippersdad

    I just watched the Electronic Intifada podcast on the Houthi response to the increased militarization of the Red Sea by the usual suspects. In response to the US demanding that they release the Galaxy Leader, their response on Twitter was “No.”

    You just gotta love those guys. They are plucky as hell.

    1. JonnyJames

      True. It is amazing to me that they have withstood the Saudi/UK/US efforts to destroy them for years.

  20. Carolinian

    Thanks. I wote a Helmer based comment in Links before reading this and so here is the source of my stolen points. So much to read–so little time.

    Apparently even Biden has objected to Bibi carrying on beyond another couple of weeks so the notion that this will continue for “months” is obviously just more propaganda noise. Mere common sense says it cannot.

  21. scott s.

    The post mis-characterizes its link about Bab el-Mandeb Strait in that the link to International institute for Law of the Sea Studies discusses the applicability of the right of transit passage under UNCLOS article 38, not the right of innocent passage.

    As far as defensive capabilities, a distinction needs to be drawn between ship self defense and area defense (including escorted vessels) as different weapon suites are available in each case.

    As far as hitting a 25 kt target, you have to know initial target positional and velocity uncertainty, time of flight (TOF), what if any mid-course guidance is available, missile/drone navigational uncertainty, and terminal guidance. Terminal guidance is going to likely involve an active sensor so you have to know the coverage area of the sensor and its discrimination capability (in all likelihood there will be other shipping that are unintended targets) and the terminal maneuverability of the missile/drone.

    1. Rain

      The Bab el-Mandeb Strait – which I believe translates as “Gate of Tears” –
      but who is crying now?

      Actually the biggest loser in shutting down the Red Sea & Suez, is the EU – yet again!

      Well, the EU have long been angling to “decouple” or euphemistically “de-risk” their economies from China and the rest of Asia.

  22. Glen

    No matter how we sell this, it’s Gaza escalation. And Russia/China are already using the superpower they alone seem to possess to deal with this issue: diplomacy.

  23. Rain

    I am a little ashamed to admit, I cant help laughing when I see the Yemeni AnsarAllah (aka Houthis, which is a tribal name). Like a pack of very fierce terriers in their cute uniforms :-)

    They are bad-ass, and that missile attack? Wow

    Scaring half the northern hemisphere and shutting down the Red Sea. Hahaha

    I saw a Youtube vid the other day, that first ship they commandeered several weeks ago has become a Yemeni tourist attraction, with kids playing on it, families taking selfies, street vendors setting up stalls on the docks.. BWAHAHAHA

    I can understand the shipping companies being risk-averse, even with an armed naval escort, Id still be sending my ships south too :-)

    And the US with their “poodles” ?
    What, they gonna use million dollar air-defence ammo to shoot down a hundred dollar drone?

    And Malaysia? Good work!

    Going around South Africa might be a problem for Israeli bound ships too, since S. Africa have cut off diplomatic ties and Ive heard their ports are already getting backed up with shipping needing to dock for resupply etc.

  24. Polar Socialist

    One just wonders how thin the USA satellite surveillance capacity is spread between Ukraine, Israel and now Yemen. Maybe even a need to that a peek on those darn Venezuelans once in a while.

    One more crisis somewhere and the Russians can arrange a million people new year party on the Ukraine border without The West noticing it.

  25. The Heretic

    Russia and Ukraine have both lost an enormous number of lives to their war, Russia knows it is facing the west in this war, with US Reconnaisance assets giving direct guidance to Ukraine offensive and defensive operations and innumerable amounts of military equipment; but neither the West nor Russia are threatening each other with a nuclear strike. Indeed, both sides have been ‘respectful of each other’ concerning this one matter.

    Hence, If only shipping is interrupted via the Red Sea, not even a full blockade; there is no way Israel can justify a Nuclear strike against any country… the level of world disapprobation would drown out even the best propaganda that Europe, USA, and Israel could put out together… China, the Brics, and the whole world would turn backs on the west, irregardless of economic harm done to themselves.

    Hopefully, Bibi is not that stupid. And if Bibi is that stupid, hopefully someone in the Shin Bet or Mossad is not.

  26. The Heretic

    If the Americans are smart, they will develop short range small, but accurate little missiles with a short range but high resolution radar to shoot down small objects and slow drones… a lower cost option, and allowing for much more ammo storage than using their expensive general purpose missiles to shoot down cheap drones. And add functionality against small slow targets to the phlanax gun system also.

    The houthis best game is to never attack a warship, only shipping; and this give the US and allies no justification to launch an attack that would kill the houthis themselves..use of slow and cheap drones in a non-threatening manner warships but damaging to shipping (but not so powerful as to actually sink a ship), is the best option of harrrassment without a life threatening escalation… but do beware of Israeli or bombing or US or Israeli mischief sometime in the future.

    Us reliance on high end, low volume, expensive systems is a weakness in this scenario.

  27. Fazal Majid

    None of the participants in Operation Prosperity Guardian have naval bases on the Red Sea.

    France has a naval base in Djibouti. As does China…

    The US has a base there, Camp Lemonnier, but not a naval one, even though it’s run by the US Navy, go figure.

  28. Lamped.usa

    Lots of good analysis in the post. The US and allies should save the ammo by declaring Bab el-Mandeb strait a war zone and diverting ships from all countries to take alternate routes.

  29. john r fiore

    Such vigorous energy and passion to keep huge steel ships carrying gas, oil or just crap, moving….meanwhile no energy and no passion and no coalition to stop the slaughter of innocent human beings in gaza…and as usual the wretched journalists at the staged press conferences throw these softball, tepid questions…If there were humanity in the EU, US, and UN, an international force would have stepped in months ago to halt the fighting…but alas, there is none, and so in the end, only if economics and profits are invilved, will anyone care.

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