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20 Dec, 2023 12:16

Pentagon concerned with cost of repelling Houthi attacks – Politico

The US has launched Operation Prosperity Guardian, attempting to curb Yemeni rebel assaults on shipping in the Red Sea
Pentagon concerned with cost of repelling Houthi attacks – Politico

Pentagon officials are worried about the growing cost to the US of countering Yemeni Houthi drone and missile attacks in the Red Sea, Politico reported on Wednesday. The report comes after several major freight companies suspended travel through the route, citing concerns over the safety of their vessels.

The US Navy has shot down 38 drones and several missiles over the Red Sea in the past two months, according to the US Department of Defense. On Saturday, the US destroyer USS Carney shot down 14 drones – suspected to be launched from Yemen – in one attack alone.

Houthi militants have stepped up attacks on shipping in the region amid the escalating Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza. With the death toll among the Palestinians reportedly nearing 20,000, armed groups have vowed to continue their assaults until “the Israeli aggression against” their “steadfast brothers in the Gaza Strip stops.”

Politico reported that the cost of using US naval surface-to-air missiles is increasingly concerning, quoting sources from the Department of Defense. Each munition is reportedly worth an estimated 1,000 times more than the drones they’re used against.

“That quickly becomes a problem because the most benefit, even if we do shoot down their incoming missiles and drones, is in their favor,” said Mick Mulroy, a former US Defense Department official and CIA officer. He believes the US needs to start looking at cheaper systems more in line with the costs expended by their opponents.

The most likely method to be used in parrying Houthi strikes is expected to be the Standard Missile-2, with a range of 92 to 130 nautical miles and costing $2.1 million each. The other available tools for the job – Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles or airburst rounds – are likely to have too limited of a range, Politico’s sources said.

“My guess is the [destroyers] are shooting SM-2s for as long as they can – they are not in [the] business of taking chances on hostile targets getting close,” the former official commented.

Their experts estimate that the suicide drones deployed by the Houthis cost $2,000 at most.

The US doesn’t seem to have a cheaper option than what it’s using now, Samuel Bendett, an adviser with the Center for Naval Analyses, told Politico, adding that “driving down the cost of such defenses is essential in the long term.”

On Monday, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced the formation of an international maritime task force to counter rebel attacks on vessels in the Red Sea.

Houthi spokesman Mohammed al-Bukhaiti replied on X (formerly Twitter) that the US measures are an escalation and that the rebels won’t stop until the “genocidal crimes in Gaza stop… no matter the sacrifices it costs” them.

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