A Royal Navy warship has shot down a suspected attack drone that was targeting merchant shipping in the Red Sea, the defence secretary said.
Grant Shapps said HMS Diamond, an air defence vessel, fired a Sea Viper missile at the drone and ‘destroyed the target’ overnight.
Cargo ships in waters off the Arabian Peninsula have been the subject of recent drone attacks from nearby territory held by Houthi rebels in Yemen.
HMS Diamond was only deployed to the area two weeks ago to help protect the shipping lanes amid growing international concerns over threats to safety.
‘The ship recently arrived in the region to bolster international efforts to maintain maritime security,’ Mr Shapps wrote in a statement on X.
‘The recent spate of illegal attacks represent a direct threat to international commerce and maritime security in the Red Sea.
‘The UK remains committed to repelling these attacks to protect the free flow of global trade.’
It comes after the Bahamas-flagged Unity Explorer, owned by a UK company, was among three commercial vessels targeted in an attack by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels earlier this month.
The Red Sea lies between north Africa and the Arabian Peninsula and connects the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean via the Suez Canal.
On Friday, Maersk, the world’s biggest shipping company, told all its vessels planning to pass through the Bab el-Mandeb Strait to ‘pause their journey until further notice’ after a missile attack on a Liberian-flagged cargo ship.
The incident is believed to the first time the Royal Navy has shot down an aerial target in anger since the First Gulf War in 1991.
Admiral Sir Ben Key, the Royal Navy’s First Sea Lord, said: ‘A sixth of the world’s commercial shipping passes through the Bab-al-Mandeb and Red Sea.
‘The RN is committed to upholding the right to free use of the oceans and we do not tolerate indiscriminate threats or attacks against those going about their lawful business on the high seas.’
The Ministry of Defence has not said who was behind the attack.
But Yemen’s Houthis have been behind a series of attacks on vessels in the Red Sea, as well as launching drones and missiles targeting Israel in response to its war against Hamas in Gaza.
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