The UK Royal Navy has come under scrutiny due to its limited offensive capabilities in Yemen, specifically against the Houthi movement. This shortcoming has been highlighted following a series of attacks by the Houthis, Iran-backed insurgents, on commercial shipping in the Red Sea. These attacks have been ongoing since mid-November, purportedly pressuring Israel to end the war in Gaza. In a recent incident, a British-linked container ship was targeted by the Houthis, leading to a fire in the Gulf of Aden.
The Royal Navy’s HMS Diamond has been identified as lacking the necessary missile systems to engage land targets. As a result, the United States Navy has assumed the majority of strike responsibilities against Houthi positions on the Yemeni mainland. This situation has led to criticism from defense circles, with a former senior defense chief labeling it a “scandal” and a clear sign of capability degradation due to budget constraints and strategic decisions.
In contrast to the UK’s naval limitations, US Navy destroyers in the region are equipped with Tomahawk guided missiles, which boast a range of approximately 1,500 miles. The UK’s current strategy relies heavily on Royal Air Force jets based in Cyprus, around 1,500 miles away, to carry out these strikes. HMS Diamond’s primary role has been reduced to countering Houthi drone activities targeting maritime interests in the Red Sea, utilizing fixed artillery guns rather than surface-to-surface missile systems.