Pentagon Confirms $32M Drone Downed Off Yemen, Same Day UK Tanker Destroyed

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by Tyler Durden
Monday, Feb 19, 2024 - 06:30 PM

Update(1330ET): Monday has been a bad day for the Western coalition patrolling the Red Sea. First, US defense officials have confirmed to The New York Times that overnight an MQ-9 Reaper drone was downed and that the Pentagon is investigating, after the Houthis stated (see below) they successfully shot it down:

The Pentagon is investigating the cause of a crash of an American military surveillance drone off the coast of Yemen on Monday morning, two U.S. officials said.

The officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss operational matters, confirmed that the drone, an MQ-9 Reaper, fell out of the sky. Iranian-backed Houthi militants said on Monday that they had downed the drone near the port city of Al Hudaydah, in western Yemen.

As a reminder, the cost of each Reaper is commonly estimated at $32 million. The below purports to be video of the US drone downing (unverified footage):

Next, CENTCOM has issued a fresh statement confirming the Houthis destroyed a UK-owned commercial ship. The Houthis have claimed the vessel sunk, and this seems to have been acknowledged in the US statement, which follows:

Between 9:30 and 10:45 p.m., Feb. 18, two anti-ship ballistic missiles were launched from Iranian-backed Houthi terrorist-controlled areas of Yemen toward MV Rubymar, a Belize-flagged, UK-owned bulk carrier. One of the missiles struck the vessel, causing damage. The ship issued a distress call and a coalition warship along with another merchant vessel responded to the call to assist the crew of the MV Rubymar. The crew was transported to a nearby port by the merchant vessel.

All of this comes after several weeks of US coalition airstrikes on Yemen. But the Biden's administration's going on the 'offensive' against the Houthis is clearly having little or no effect. In fact, Operation Prosperity Guardian seems to only be emboldening the attacks on targets in and over the Red Sea. 

The Houthis are now actively going after aerial assets as well, with some 'successes', a very dangerous escalation.

* * * 

Attacks on Red Sea shipping from Yemen's Iran-backed Houthis escalated overnight when missiles hit a commercial vessel and forced the crew to evacuate. There are also reports a US drone was knocked out of the sky by an anti-air missile. 

Bloomberg reports missiles hit the engine room of "Rubymar," a Belize-flagged cargo ship sailing through the Bab el-Mandeb Strait connecting the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. 

Rubymar reported severe damage after "an explosion in close proximity to the vessel," the British military's United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations Center reported.

"Military authorities report crew have abandoned the vessel," UKMTO said, adding, "Vessel at anchor and all crew are safe."

This is the first instance the crew of a commercial vessel has been forced to evacuate due to damage sustained by rebel attacks. 

Yahya Sare'e, the Houthis' spokesperson, warned in a statement that Rubymar is "now at risk of potentially sinking." 

"The ship suffered catastrophic damages and came to a complete halt," Sare'e continued. 

He also said Yemeni air defenses shot down a US General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper drone in the region "with a suitable missile while it was carrying out hostile missions against our country." 

UKMTO also reports another incident. 

Despite the US and UK having carried out hundreds of attacks on the country in an attempt to neutralize rebels, continued missile and drone attacks on the international shipping lane represent a failure by the collective West to bring peace and safety to the area.