• The Houthis struck a commercial vessel with an uncrewed surface vessel on Wednesday.
  • It's the first time the rebels have scored a hit with a USV amid their ongoing Red Sea attacks.
  • Past attempts have been unsuccessful.

The Houthis used an uncrewed surface vessel to strike a commercial ship in the Red Sea on Wednesday, the US military revealed.

The Iran-backed rebels have employed USVs, also known as naval drones or drone boats, as part of their attacks on shipping lanes in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, but they have been unable to actually score a hit with one until now.

The likely explosive-laden vessel struck the M/V Tutor, a Liberian-flagged, Greek-owned bulk carrier, US Central Command said, noting in its statement on the incident that "the impact of the USV caused severe flooding and damage to the engine room."

Prior to the release of the CENTCOM statement, United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, an element of the British Royal Navy, posted an incident bulletin earlier on Wednesday saying that a "small craft" had hit a vessel off the coast of Yemen in the Red Sea. It described the craft as white in color and between 5-7 meters (16-23 feet) in length.

The UKMTO later said that the vessel is "taking on water, and not under command of the crew." In a follow-on update, it said the ship reported being hit "for a second time by an unknown airborne projectile," and "military authorities are assisting."

The current status of the vessel that was hit is unclear.

One official at the Ambrey maritime security firm told The War Zone, which first reported on the incident, that the Tutor is a "dead ship" and will require "salvage operations."

The Houthis have employed USVs in years past, although it wasn't until earlier this year that the rebels actually began using the drones as part of their monthslong attacks on shipping lanes.

Wednesday's attack marks the first successful strike by a Houthi USV during the campaign. Prior to this incident, the drone boats were either destroyed by Western forces, or they were detonated in the water without hitting anything.

Beyond USVs, the Houthis have relied on their sizeable arsenal of anti-ship ballistic missiles and cruise missiles, as well as various one-way attack drones, to wreak havoc off the coast of Yemen. Since the fall, the rebels have used these weapons to hit a number of commercial vessels. It has sunk one and killed crew members on another.

Over the weekend, the Houthis hit two commercial vessels in the Gulf of Aden with anti-ship missiles. In both incidents, however, the vessels managed to continue underway. The Tutor is the latest attack.

The string of attacks comes after the Pentagon recently extended the deployment of the US Navy carrier strike group that's been battling the Houthis, as American intelligence officials warn that the conflict may go on for a while.

Read the original article on Business Insider