Sailors aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and its accompanying warships have spent four straight months at sea defending against ballistic missiles and attack drones launched by the Iran-backed Houthis, and now they are also defending themselves more regularity against a new threat: unmanned rapids. boats that shoot them through the water.

While the Houthis have launched unmanned surface vessels, or USVs, in the past against Saudi coalition forces intervening in Yemen’s civil war, they were first used against U.S. military and commercial vessels in the Red Sea. on January 4th. In the weeks since, the Navy has had to intercept and destroy multiple American vehicles.

It is “more of an unknown threat that we don’t have a lot of information about, that could be extremely lethal: an unmanned surface ship,” said Rear Adm. Marc Miguez, commander of Carrier Strike Group Two, of which the Eisenhower is a part. . the flagship. The Houthis “obviously have ways of controlling them just like they do with (unmanned aerial vehicles), and we have very little fidelity in terms of all the reserves of what they have in terms of unmanned aerial vehicles,” Miguez said.

THE YEMEN HOUTIS FIRE 2 MISSILES AT A CARGO SHIP WHOSE FINAL DESTINATION IS THE IRAN PORT

The Houthis began shooting at US military and commercial ships after a deadly explosion at the Al-Ahli hospital in Gaza on October 17, just days after the outbreak of war between Israel and Hamas. The rebels have said they will continue shooting at commercial and military ships transiting the region until Israel ceases its military operations inside Gaza.

The Eisenhower has been patrolling here since Nov. 4, and some of its accompanying ships have been there even longer, since October.

In those months, Eisenhower’s fleet of fighters and surveillance aircraft has worked non-stop to detect and intercept the missiles and drones fired by the Houthis against ships in the Red Sea, the Strait of Bab-al-Mandeb and the Gulf of Aden. F/A-18 fighter jets from aircraft carriers are also frequently launched to destroy missile sites they detect before munitions are fired.

Crew member of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower

A crew member stands on the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, also known as ‘IKE’, in the southern Red Sea on February 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

As of Wednesday, the carrier strike group, which includes the cruiser USS Philippine Sea, the destroyers USS Mason and Gravely, and additional US Navy assets in the region, including the destroyers USS Laboon and USS Carney , have conducted more than 95 interceptions of drones, anti-ship ballistic missiles and anti-ship cruise missiles and conducted more than 240 self-defense attacks against more than 50 Houthi targets. On Wednesday, the strike group intercepted and destroyed seven additional anti-ship cruise missiles and another explosive USV prepared to launch against ships in the Red Sea.

“We are constantly monitoring what the Iranian-backed Houthis are doing, and when we find military targets that threaten the capabilities of merchant ships, we act in defense of those ships and attack them with precision and violence,” the Captain said. Marvin Scott, commander of the carrier air wing’s eight fighter squadrons.

But the USV threat, which is still evolving, is concerning, Miguez said.

“That’s one of the scariest scenarios, having an unmanned, bomb-laden surface ship that can cruise at pretty fast speeds. And if you’re not immediately on the scene, it can get ugly extremely quickly,” Miguez said.

U.S. Central Command also reported Thursday that U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Clarence Sutphin Jr. boarded a ship in the Arabian Sea bound for Yemen on Jan. 28 and seized ballistic missile parts, U.S. vehicle components and communications equipment. military grade.

That pace has meant the ships have spent four months at a constant combat pace with no days off on a port call. That takes its toll on sailors, Eisenhower’s commander, Capt. Christopher “Chowdah” Hill, said in an interview with The Associated Press aboard the Eisenhower.

The ship maintains morale by letting sailors know how important their work is and providing them with access to Wi-Fi so they can stay connected with their families at home.

“The other day I was walking through the dining room and I could hear a baby crying because someone was teleconferencing with their baby that they didn’t even know yet,” Hill said. “That kind of connection is just extraordinary.”

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Destroyers don’t have Wi-Fi due to bandwidth limitations, which can make things difficult for those crews.

Joselyn Martinez, Gunnery Mate 2nd Class aboard the destroyer Gravely, said not being in touch with home and being in a fighting position at sea for so long has been difficult, “but we support each other here.”

When a threat is detected and an alarm sounds, directing the crew to respond, “it’s like an adrenaline rush,” Martinez said. “But at the end of the day, we just do what we came to do and, you know, defend my crew and my ship.”

By Sam