The waters of the Bab al-Mandab strait have become Vampire infested waters. For the uninitiated, Vampire is the US Navy brevity code for a hostile anti-ship missile. First the United Arab Emirates vessel Swift on 1 October was attacked by Houthi rebels while traveling to Aden to deliver humanitarian supplies. The ship was struck by what was appears to be a Chinese made C-802 anti-ship missile.
Yesterday, the Houthi rebels struck again, this time targeting a US Navy warship. Within a 60-minute period beginning at 7 PM local time, two missiles were fired from shore at the USS Mason, an Arleigh Burke class destroyer. When the first missile was detected, it automatically triggered defensive countermeasures. Both rebel missiles fell harmlessly into the sea. It was not made clear by the Pentagon or other US sources exactly what type of countermeasures were implemented. However, judging by the information released, it does not appear that Mason engaged the vampires with surface to air missiles or with its Phalanx close-in-weapons-system.
Mason, along with USS Nitze and USS Ponce, deployed to the area following the attack on the Swift. Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for the attack and have warned the Saudi-led coalition to keep its ships away from Yemeni territorial waters. The attack came one day after a Saudi airstrike killed 140 people and wounded over 500 during a funeral in the Yemeni capital.
The Bab al-Mandab strait is a strategic waterway connecting the Red Sea with the Gulf of Aden. It is a heavily traveled sea lane where oil tankers going to or coming from the Persian Gulf transit every day. The possibility of Houthi rebels launching attacks against civilian shipping in the straits is one reason for the increased US Navy presence in the region and judging by the events of the last 24 hours, further attacks should be considered very likely.