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USN relies more on carrier air wing and non-kinetic operations to counter unmanned threats in Red Sea

The US Navy is relying more on aircraft carrier USS Dwight D Eisenhower's air wing to counter unmanned Houthi threats in the Red Sea. (Janes/Michael Fabey)

The US Navy (USN) is using carrier air wing aircraft and other airborne non-kinetic means to prevent Houthis from conducting unmanned operations in the Red Sea, USN officials confirmed to Janes during interviews on naval ships from 11 to 12 June in the region.

The USN's change towards countering unmanned threats with the air wing and non-kinetic operations comes in the wake of complaints by US lawmakers about the service's use of expensive ship-launched Standard Missiles (SMs) against the relatively inexpensive unmanned platforms.

“If they look at [the] past few months, they'll see we have shifted tactics,” Captain Chris Hill, USS Dwight D Eisenhower (CVN 69) commanding officer, told Janes .

“If we get fighters forward beyond ships, they can take UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] on their own.”

Captain Marvin Scott, Eisenhower commander of the air group (CAG), told Janes , “Initially it [UAV defence] was mostly with SM-2s and SM-6s. Once we came into the southern Red Sea, we've been able to take some of that pressure off our ships.”

“We have an airport with an air wing on it,” Captain David Wroe, commander, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 22, told Janes . “We've transitioned to using those.”

He noted the US lawmakers' concern about spending too much money on SMs against unmanned threats. “We understand that perspective out here; we've improved our game. We know what we're shooting at and we've refined it.”

For more information on the cost to the US to defend against Houthi attacks, please seeUS Navy secretary calls for funds to replenish weapons stocks after defence against Iranian attacks.

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