Yemen strikes back, targeting the USS Eisenhower

JUN 3, 2024


(Photo Credit: The Cradle)

The Ansarallah-aligned Yemeni Armed Forces has raised the Red Sea stakes by targeting the US aircraft carrier Eisenhower – twice in 24 hours. The bold move demonstrates a strategic project to expose growing US military vulnerability in West Asia.

Khalil Nasrallah

On 1 June, the Ansarallah-aligned Yemeni Armed Forces displayed remarkable boldness by targeting the US aircraft carrier Eisenhower in the Red Sea twice within 24 hours. This move, in response to joint US–UK strikes on the country, marks a significant escalation in the Yemeni theater within the broader regional conflict centered on Gaza. 

Throughout the past period, Sanaa has consistently targeted battleships and destroyers with missiles and drones. Yet the strike on Eisenhower signifies a qualitative leap in the confrontation, regardless of whether the US acknowledges the hit.

Swift response from Sanaa 

On Friday, 30 May, hours after Yemeni military spokesman Brigadier General Yahya Saree announced a series of military operations as part of the fourth phase of escalation, Ansarallah downed a $30 million American MQ-9 drone, the sixth during the “Al-Fateh Al-Mubin” operation. 

In retaliation, the US launched a series of airstrikes at dawn, targeting civilian facilities in the capital city of Sanaa, as well as the governorates of Hodeidah and Taiz. These strikes, the heaviest since the US–UK attacks began on 12 January of this year, killed 16 Yemenis and injured 41 others, both military and civilian.

The magnitude of the airstrikes and the resulting casualties prompted a swift and hard response from Sanaa. As part of the war’s fourth phase of escalation to support the Palestinian resistance and extend their target bank into the Mediterranean Sea, the Yemenis quickly and unexpectedly targeted the USS Eisenhower, stationed in the northern Red Sea. 

The aircraft carrier, which serves as a launchpad for aggressions on Yemen and provides support for Israel’s war on Gaza, was hit again within a space of 24 hours. Additionally, a destroyer was targeted with several missiles and drones, confirming further hits.

Significance of the Eisenhower

Commissioned in 1977, the USS Eisenhower cost around $5.3 billion (adjusted for inflation) to build. It weighs 114,000 tons, measures 332.8 meters in length, and is a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.

The naval vessel serves as a mobile airbase and a formidable arm of the US Air Force, tasked with carrying out offensive operations in West Asia. 

Onboard are approximately 90 fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters and five thousand personnel, including pilots and sailors who operate and maintain an integrated hospital. The carrier is accompanied by several ships, including the Philippines Sea guided-missile cruiser and the guided-missile destroyers Graffley and Mason.

The Yemenis have broadened their strategic objectives, targeting a variety of sources of attacks both at sea and on land, not just commercial vessels and warships. This suggests their plan to target aircraft carriers was a deliberate one, with execution depending on the intensity of the aggression against their country.

The striking of the Eisenhower bears significant implications. Sanaa is undeterred by the increasing level of targets it can engage, showcasing a willingness to take bold actions without hesitation. It demonstrates the audacity to strike targets Washington considers red lines, including aircraft carriers and potentially land-based sites and bases in future stages. 

The US in denial 

Following the Yemeni military’s announcement confirming the targeting of Eisenhower, the US initially downplayed the event, refraining from commenting. However, Saudi outlet Al Arabiya, citing a US defense official, reported that the claims by “the Iranian-backed group” were false.

Nevertheless, the lack of direct, official, sourced US comment, even as a denial, is in itself an indication of the targeting regardless of whether the carrier was damaged or not.

On 1 January, the US opened fire on several boats belonging to the Yemeni navy, resulting in the death of ten sailors. This incident was followed on 12 January by the first wave of raids on Yemen. On that day, the Yemeni Armed Forces vowed to respond, stressing that the aggression “will not go unpunished.”

Sanaa gradually began striking US and British ships in the region, eventually targeting battleships and destroyers according to its capabilities. The responses were not immediate but unfolded in stages, indicating that Yemen’s armed forces were carefully refining their strategy.

In its latest response, shortly after a series of raids on different areas of Yemen and the subsequent loss of lives, the Yemenis retaliated promptly with winged and ballistic missiles targeting the Eisenhower aircraft carrier. 

This response was significant in two ways: the magnitude of the target – an aircraft carrier – and the speed and repetition of the response. This suggests that future aggressions may trigger even more surprising retaliations, similar to the swift action taken at dawn on Friday.

Yemeni boldness and US future calculations

Although the daring move by the Yemeni Armed Forces may surprise some, it is worth noting that the boldness demonstrated by Yemen since its decision to support the Palestinian resistance following Israel’s declaration of war on Gaza indicates that nothing can be ruled out by Sanaa’s decision-makers. 

Consequently, US calculations must account for this unpredictability in any future hostile steps toward Yemen, whether in the context of Israel’s war on Gaza or the ongoing Saudi–Emirati war on Yemen. The goal remains to restore sovereignty over all Yemeni territory by land and sea.

The targeting of the US aircraft carrier also sends high-level messages about the future of the confrontation, indicating that there are no limits to the scope and intensity of the Yemeni response. Sanaa is establishing itself as a regional player that cannot be ignored, positioning itself among the leading countries and forces of West Asia’s Axis of Resistance. 

The most critical aspect of this operation is its impact on US deterrence. The strike undermines the perceived invincibility of US military power, which could affect Washington’s interests, the presence of its forces in the region, and its relations with allies. 

The US fully recognizes the erosion of its deterrent power and understands that losing it may have far-reaching consequences. In response, the Americans seek to implement circumvention policies, such as building regional alliances through normalization between Israel and Arab countries and possibly fostering more conflicts.

However, Yemen’s actions over the past year have turned normalization with Tel Aviv into a costly endeavor, as Arab allies in the region are divided on how to approach the situation in Yemen.The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Cradle.



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