Houthis launch anti-ship ballistic missiles at U.S. warship

The Iranian-backed Houthis, which controls large areas in Yemen, launched anti-ship ballistic missiles at a U.S. warship responding to a hijacking of a commercial vessel in the Gulf of Aden on Nov. 27. The missiles missed their mark.

U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) confirmed that “At approximately 0141 on Nov. 27 Sanaa time, two ballistic missiles were fired from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen toward the general location of the USS MASON (DDG 87) and M/V CENTRAL PARK.”

“The missiles landed in the Gulf of Aden approximately ten nautical miles from the ships,” CENTCOM reported.

The USS Mason, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer assigned to the Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group, was responding to an attempt by “an unknown entity” to hijack the M/V Central Park, a Liberian-flagged tanker. The crew of the Central Park “barricaded themselves in the tanker’s citadel, an armored panic room,” and the hijackers left the ship as the USS Mason and a Japanese warship closed in, USNI News reported. Five pirates were captured. U.S. officials later stated they believe that Somali pirates likely attempted to hijack the M/V Central Park.

The Houthis, commonly referred to as Ansar Allah, are known to possess anti-ship ballistic missiles, which Iran has provided. In Sept. 2022, the Houthis paraded the missiles.

The Houthis, which have a history of harassing and attacking commercial vessels operating in the Gulf of Aden, the Bab al Mandeb Strait, and the Red Sea, have stepped up attacks on shipping over the past week. On Nov. 14, the Houthis threatened to sink commercial vessels, prompting the International Maritime Security Construct to issue a warning for vessels traveling thru the vital Bab al Mandeb Strait and the Red Sea. 

“We will sink your ships,” the Houthis declared in Arabic, English, and Hebrew on a graphic released on Nov. 14 showing an Israeli commercial vessel in flames.

On Nov. 19, five days after issuing the threat, the Houthis hijacked the Galaxy Leader, a Bahamian-flagged cargo ship, as it was traveling in the Red Sea. On Nov. 23, the Houthis are believed to have unsuccessfully attacked the CMA CGM Symi, a Malta-flagged container ship, with a drone as it traveled in the Indian Ocean.

The Houthis, in an effort to weaken Israel as the latter battles Hamas and allied terror groups in Gaza, have launched a series of drone, ballistic, and cruise missile attacks against Israeli territory. U.S. warships have shot down Houthi weapons systems at least twice. Additionally, the Houthis shot down a U.S. MQ-9 Reaper unmanned Aerial Vehicle off the coast of Yemen on Nov. 8.

The U.S. has yet to respond to the Houthi’s provocations, as the Biden administration is seeking to prevent a wider war from breaking out in the region. In addition to the strikes on U.S. military personnel by the Houthis, Iranian-backed militias have launched scores of attacks on U.S. bases in Iraq and Syria.

The Houthis have not formally published a statement accepting responsibility for attacking the USS Mason and M/V Central Park. 

Joe Truzman is a research analyst at FDD's Long War Journal focused primarily on Palestinian militant groups and Hezbollah. Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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