Houthi rebels took aim at a US aircraft, but the military blew their missiles up before they got a shot off

a fighter aircraft takes off on the flight deck of a military carrier
An F/A-18E Super Hornet fighter jet takes off on the flight deck of USS Eisenhower.US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kaitlin Watt
  • The US military destroyed a Houthi missile that posed a threat to a US aircraft on Wednesday.

  • The surface-to-air missile was ready to launch from a position in Yemen, US Central Command said.

  • It's the latest preemptive action taken by the US, which has destroyed multiple Houthi missiles.

US forces on Wednesday destroyed a Houthi missile that presented an immediate threat to American aircraft, the US military said, marking the latest engagement between Western militaries and the Iran-backed rebels.

At around 3:30 p.m. local time, American forces hit and destroyed a surface-to-air missile that the Houthis were preparing to launch from Yemen, US Central Command, or CENTCOM, said in a statement.

After initially identifying the missile, the military determined that it "presented an imminent threat" to US aircraft operating in the region. CENTCOM did not disclose any additional information about the engagement in response to queries from Business Insider.

The incident marks the most recent demonstration of preemptive action taken by the Pentagon, which has conducted numerous strikes on Houthi targets this month as the rebels prepared to launch missiles into key international shipping lanes off the coast of Yemen.

an aircraft takes off on the flight deck of a military carrier
An F/A-18E Super Hornet fighter jet takes off on the flight deck of USS Eisenhower.US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Zachary Elmore

In previous instances, CENTCOM identified the munitions as anti-ship missiles — the Houthis have a robust arsenal of cruise and ballistic capabilities — and said that the Houthis were ready to launch and presented a threat to commercial vessels and American warships in the region.

After Wednesday's incident, however, the military specified that it hit a surface-to-air missile and that it posed a threat to US aircraft.

Beyond these preemptive — and unilateral — actions taken by the US military, American and British forces have also conducted several rounds of strikes against Houthi targets across Yemen, striking air-defense systems, missile launchers, radars, and weapons storage facilities.

Western officials have characterized these strikes as defensive actions taken in response to months of missile and drone attacks by the Houthis on commercial ships transiting the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden — a critical supply route for global trade.

"The international community has been attacked by Houthis, and the US working alongside international allies and partners are working together to help deter, degrade and disrupt their ability to conduct these attacks," Pentagon Press Secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters on Tuesday.

Yemen's Houthi loyalists lift their weapons as they take part in an armed parade on Dec. 20, 2023 in Yemen's Amran province.Mohammed Hamoud

Wednesday's preemptive strike came less than a day after the Houthis fired an anti-ship cruise missile from Yemen toward the Red Sea. USS Gravely, a destroyer, shot down the missile. It was not immediately clear if there were any commercial ships sailing in the area. There were no reported injuries or damage.

Beyond the Houthis, Washington has conducted strikes against other Iranian proxy groups in the Middle East engaging in provocative actions, including militias in Iraq and Syria that have carried out more than 160 attacks — using a mix of drones, rockets, and missiles — on US forces based in the region since mid-October.

The deadliest of these attacks occurred on Sunday, when a one-way attack drone hit a US military outpost in Jordan, killing three troops and injuring dozens more. The Biden administration blamed the carnage on Iran-backed militias and vowed to retaliate.

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