The Arleigh Burke-class, guided-missile destroyer USS Carney fires at Houthi missiles and drones in the Red Sea on Oct. 19, 2023.

The Arleigh Burke-class, guided-missile destroyer USS Carney fires at Houthi missiles and drones in the Red Sea on Oct. 19, 2023. (Aaron Lau/U.S. Navy)

WASHINGTON — A Navy warship for the second time in recent weeks shot down a drone in the Middle East launched by Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen, Pentagon officials said Wednesday.

The USS Carney shot down the drone because it was approaching the Navy vessel near the Bab el-Mandeb strait, a waterway that connects the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden near the Arabian Sea, according to a defense official who spoke on condition of anonymity. Much of Yemen’s southern coastline borders the strait and Gulf of Aden.

“At approximately 11 a.m. Yemen time while in the South Red Sea, a U.S. Navy ship shot down an unmanned aerial vehicle launched from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen,” the defense official said. “Although its intentions are not known, the [drone] was heading toward the ship.”

The confrontation on Wednesday did not cause injuries to American personnel or damage to U.S. property, the official said, adding the Carney was escorting a supply ship and another vessel carrying military equipment to the region when the shootdown occurred.

The USS Carney is an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer that’s been in the region for weeks. The defense official also said the destroyed drone was an Iranian-made KAS-04.

The Houthis in Yemen are one of many militant groups sponsored and aligned with the Iranian government.

“The Houthis and Iran have a longstanding relationship,” Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon’s chief spokesman, said Tuesday. “When it comes to our forces, we are going to do whatever we need to do to ensure they stay protected.”

The shootdown comes after several weeks of increased militant attacks against U.S. forces at various locations throughout the Middle East. Iranian-supported groups, for example, have launched dozens of attacks targeting multiple U.S. bases in Iraq and Syria, and the Houthi rebels in Yemen have also previously engaged with American troops.

In mid-October, the USS Carney shot down several enemy drones and rockets fired by the Houthis in Yemen. The Pentagon called it a self-defense strike, but officials said they were not certain where the rockets and drones were targeted. Ryder said they could have been aimed at Israel, just days after the Oct. 7 Hamas attack that killed hundreds of Israeli civilians and touched off a new conflict between the longtime adversaries.

“These missiles [and drones] were deemed a threat, and so the Carney took action,” Ryder said after the October incident. “We have the capability to defend our broader interests in the region and to deter regional escalation. … The crew of the Carney did just that.”

The Carney has been in the Middle East as part of the U.S. effort to stabilize the region and deter other countries or groups from escalating the Israeli-Hamas conflict. The ship is armed with missiles, torpedoes and several guns and is part of the military’s Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System, a program that provides defense against short- and intermediate-range missiles.

Wednesday’s shootdown came one day after another Iranian-made drone flew within 1,500 yards of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, which was patrolling international waters in the Persian Gulf. Navy officials said the drone violated safety protocols and endangered U.S. service members on the aircraft carrier.

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Doug G. Ware covers the Department of Defense at the Pentagon. He has many years of experience in journalism, digital media and broadcasting and holds a degree from the University of Utah. He is based in Washington, D.C.

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