Royal Navy crisis as UK warships lack firepower to strike Houthi land bases near Red Sea | UK | News

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None of Britain’s destroyers or frigates have the firepower to attack Iran-back Houthi targets on land, it has been claimed.

A British defence source claimed the HMS Diamond, a warship considered a jewel in the naval crown, had not joined the retaliatory strikes against Houthi targets because it didn’t have the “capability to fire to land targets”, the Telegraph wrote.

Having Navy ships not equipped with surface-to-surface missiles, a former senior defence chief claimed, was a “scandal”.

They told the newspaper: “It’s clearly a scandal and completely unsatisfactory. This is what happens when the Royal Navy is forced to make crucial decisions which can affect capability.”

In light of the joint operation being carried out by London and Washington against targets of Houthi rebels in Yemen in a bid to quash the group’s disruption in the Red Sea, this inability leaves the US to carry out the majority of the strikes, with support from RAF planes based some 1,500 miles away.

Claims the UK can’t strike the Houthi’s land bases from its warships have led Rear Admiral Chris Parry, a former senior naval officer, to suggest the Royal Navy would be unable to “go toe to toe” with Chinese and Russian military ships and to present a credible deterrence against a potential aggression.

While US destroyers can fire Tomahawk guided missiles at land targets, their British counterpart can currently only fire artillery guns located at the front of each vessel.

However, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said the destroyer stationed in the Red Sea and taking part in Operation Prosperity Guardian has been playing its part in the operation by being “directly involved in successfully destroying Houthi drones targeting shipping” in the sea.

The Royal Navy retired at the end of 2023 the Harpoon anti-ship missiles and has installed its temporary replacement, the Norwegian-made Naval Strike Missile capable of hitting land targets, only on one vessel as part of a trial.

It is expected this system will be rolled out to 11 frigates and destroyers, before a new cruise missile system is to be introduced in 2028.

A MoD spokesman said: “As with all coalition operations, commanders select the best equipment for the job. HMS Diamond is an air defence destroyer, which has been directly involved in successfully destroying Houthi drones targeting shipping in the Red Sea.

“Equally, the Royal Air Force has the capability to strike land targets with high precision, which is why Typhoon aircraft strikes have reduced the Houthis ability to conduct these attacks.”

An MoD source added to the Telegraph: “We have already shown with our Typhoon capability that we are a leading force among our allies in defending the Red Sea. We are proud of our brave service men and women for all they are doing … it’s nonsense to suggest anything except that we are playing a key role.”

The Houthis, one of Iran’s proxy groups operating in the Middle East, have been attacking commercial ships in the Red Sea since mid-November to pressure Israel to end the war in Gaza.

The US-UK airstrikes carried out this month haven’t so far prompted the group to stop their activities, and last week they hit a British-linked container ship that eventually caught fire in the Gulf of Aden.

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