HMS Diamond: British warship shoots down suspected attack drone in Red Seaon December 16, 2023 at 3:56 pm

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The Royal Navy has not shot down an aerial target in anger since 1991, the Ministry of Defence says.

The HMS Diamond, off the coast of ScotlandImage source, Ministry of Defence

A British warship has shot down a suspected attack drone in the Red Sea, the defence secretary has said.

HMS Diamond, a Type 45 Destroyer, successfully destroyed the target on Saturday, Grant Shapps said.

The Ministry of Defence said it was the first time in decades the Royal Navy had shot an aerial target in anger.

The MoD did not say who was behind the incident, but Yemen’s Houthi rebels have claimed responsibility for recent attacks in the Red Sea.

The Houthis have targeted foreign ships in the area since the start of the Israel-Hamas war. They have declared support for Hamas and have said they were targeting ships travelling to Israel.

Merchant shipping was believed to be the drone’s intended target in Saturday’s incident, the defence secretary said.

The Red Sea lies between north Africa and the Arabian Peninsula and connects the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean via the Suez Canal.

HMS Diamond was sent to the region just two weeks ago “to bolster international efforts to maintain maritime security”, Mr Shapps said in a statement.

The defence secretary said the attacks represented “a direct threat to international commerce and maritime security” in the Red Sea.

“The UK remains committed to repelling these attacks to protect the free flow of global trade,” he added.

HMS Diamond departs HM Naval Base Portsmouth

Image source, Minstry of Defence

Earlier this month, the US military said the Unity Explorer, sailing under the flag of the Bahamas and owned by a British company, was among three commercial vessels targeted in an attack by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.

On Friday, shipping company Maersk told all its vessels planning to pass through the Bab el-Mandeb Strait in the Red Sea to “pause their journey until further notice” after a missile attack on a Liberian-flagged cargo ship.

About 50 large merchant ships pass through the strait every day while double that number pass through the Strait of Hormuz.

According to the MoD, the last time the Royal Navy shot down an aerial target in anger was in the First Gulf War in 1991, when Type 42 Destroyer HMS Gloucester destroyed an Iraqi Silkworm missile bound for a US warship.

First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Ben Key said: “One sixth of the world’s commercial shipping passes through the Bab-al-Mandeb Strait and Red Sea.

“HMS Diamond deployed at short notice to the region from Portsmouth just two weeks ago and is already delivering effect together with our American, French and other allies and partners.

“The Royal Navy is committed to upholding the right to free use of the oceans and we do not tolerate indiscriminate threats or attacks against those going about their lawful business on the high seas.”

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