LONDON (Agencies): The UK Royal Navy’s vessels have been revealed to be incapable of attacking Houthi positions in Yemen due to a lack of necessary missiles, a situation that a former defense chief has labeled a “scandal.”
The UK has joined the US in operations against the Houthis to prevent attacks on commercial shipping in the Red Sea. However, the US Navy has had to execute most of the strikes on the Yemeni mainland, according to the Daily Telegraph.
A defense source from the UK disclosed that the Royal Navy destroyer, HMS Diamond, stationed in the Red Sea, does not possess the capability to fire at land targets. This leaves the UK’s only source of offensive capability for Royal Air Force jets based at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus, approximately 1,500 miles away. HMS Diamond has been involved in neutralizing Houthi drones targeting shipping in the Red Sea, with the only operational weapons system on UK destroyers being fixed artillery guns.
In contrast, US Navy destroyers can launch Tomahawk guided missiles, which have a range of 1,500 miles. A former senior defense chief expressed his dissatisfaction with the situation, stating that the UK is now forced to fly RAF jets thousands of miles to perform the task that a surface-to-surface missile could accomplish.
Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, the head of the UK Armed Forces, had previously warned the government about the need to expedite the acquisition processes for land attack missile systems on British vessels. Since then, a temporary system of Norwegian-made Naval Strike missiles has been installed on only one UK vessel and has yet to be tested. A new cruise missile system for British warships is expected to be introduced in 2028.
Conservative MP Mark Francois, a former armed forces minister, expressed his disappointment that the missile is still not in operational service, despite being on order. Earlier this year, US Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro emphasized the significant importance of Royal Navy investment considering the near-term threats to the UK and US.
Tobias Ellwood, the former chair of the House of Commons Defence Select Committee, urged Defense Secretary Grant Shapps to review the situation, stating that the UK cannot continue with a surface fleet that is too small and cannot fire on land at range. In response, Shapps reiterated the UK’s commitment to protecting freedom of navigation in the Red Sea.
A spokesperson for the UK Ministry of Defence stated that commanders select the best equipment for the job in all coalition operations. They highlighted that HMS Diamond, an air defense destroyer, has been directly involved in successfully destroying Houthi drones targeting shipping in the Red Sea. They also noted that the Royal Air Force has the capability to strike land targets with high precision, which is why Typhoon aircraft strikes have reduced the Houthis’ ability to conduct these attacks.