Back on the map
The Gulf of Aden and the Bad al Mandeb strait are very much back on the public maritime map after what purports to be a video of a suicide attack released earlier this week on a Royal Saudi Navy warship operating in the waterway.
A video claiming to show the moment of the attack has been widely distributed online.
Reports indicate that the vessel is an Al Madinah-class frigate. Four of these vessels were constructed for Saudi Arabia in the mid-1980s. Displacing around 2,600t they are relatively small although they are equipped with surface to surface and surface to air missiles, a large main gun and helicopter deck and hangar.
Saudi Arabia is leading a coalition of regional and international allies against a Houthi rebellion in the country, a conflict that has turned increasingly brutal on both sides.
The attack on the Saudi vessel comes just a few months after a UAE aid vessel, although Houthi rebels claim it was a warship, was hit by missile fire launched from the shore. In both cases the damage caused to the vessels appears to have been severe.
In the same month the USS Mason, USS Nitze and USS Ponce were subjected to missile attacks similar to the one that hit the Saudi vessel.
The US and the UK have all increased patrols in the area as a response to the spate of attacks, which indicate a high level of symmetric and asymmetric capabilities being employed by the Houthis. Iran also sent vessels to the area although it is widely believed they are supporting the Houthis in what has become a proxy war between the Islamic Republic and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
In 2000 the USS Cole was damaged in a suicide attack while docked at the Yemeni port city of Aden with the resultant loss of 15 US service personnel.
With commercial and military shipping using the vital stretch of water the prevention of similar attacks occurring again will be uppermost in military planners minds.