Houthi “suicide boats” used in Saudi frigate attack were ‘drones’, US Navy Admiral says

The “suicide boats” used by Yemen’s Houthi fighters during the recent attack on Royal Saudi Navy frigate Al-Madinah were actually unmanned boats, a U.S. Navy Vice Admiral told Defense News in a recent interview.

Official reports from the January 30 incident said the frigate was attacked by three boats with Houthi fighters on board. Of the three boats, only one managed to reach the ship and cause an explosion which killed two and injured three other Saudi Navy sailors.

The official Saudi press agency later released a video from the frigate’s cameras showing the moment in which the boat hits frigate causing the explosion.

A U.S. Navy assessment suggests that the attack was carried out by a “remote-controlled boat of some kind,” U.S. 5th Fleet commander Vice Adm. Kevin Donegan told Defense News.

Donegan added that it was highly unlikely Houthis were capable of developing such a sophisticated system pointing to the fact that other nations, like Iran, could be behind the unmanned explosive boats that are taking suicide out of the equation.

Donegan based his assumptions on intercepted weapon shipments bound for Yemen. In two separate investigations, independent observers determined the weapons came from Iran.

“So we know that weapons were shipped from Iran to Yemen. The question is at what level and how many, etc.,” Donegan said in the interview. “So they’re being supported by Iran. Maybe there’s others supporting them, I don’t know. But for certain these things aren’t indigenous, there are parts and components that need to be coming from other places to make them effective like this.”

Interestingly, a Washington Times report from 2015 points to Iran’s development of suicide-drones that could be used in attacks against targets in the Strait of Hormuz.

Earlier attacks on vessels in the Strait of Hormuz, like the UAE Navy-operated HSV Swift which was severely damaged, saw Houthis use Chinese-built C-802 anti-ship missiles that Iran has in its inventory.