Helicopter From French Navy Destroyer Shoots Down Houthi UAV In Red Sea

Houthi drone
The Houthi drone as seen through the helicopter sensor. (@EUNAVFORASPIDES)

A French Navy helicopter launched from a destroyer supporting EUNAVFOR ASPIDES operation in the Red Sea, shot down a Houthi UAV.

On Mar. 20, 2024, a Marine Nationale (French Navy) helicopter embarked on a French destroyer, shot down a Houthi UAV threatening commercial navigation in the Red Sea, the EUNAVFOR ASPIDES military operation’s official X account announced.

No additional details about the downing have been released so far.

Although this is not the first time the French Navy shoots down Houthi drones , it’s the first time the downing was carried out by a helicopter (or, at least, the first public acknowledged engagement by a French helo).

A screenshot showing the Houthi drone as seen through the French helicopter’s EO/IR sensor has been released by EUNAVFOR ASPIDES. The drone seems to be a Khatef or Samad type. It’s not clear which type of helicopter was involved in the downing nor the warship that launched the chopper. France has deployed the Alsace, a frigate with air defense capabilities, and the Languedoc, an anti-submarine frigate, in the area. Recent footage of the Alsace shows an AS565 Panther helicopter operating aboard the frigate, so it’s possible that this type was used to engage the drone (either by a machine gun or by special operators aboard the aircraft).

As we have been reporting for weeks, Houthi attacks on maritime traffic in the Bab el-Mandeb Strait have been quite effective as they endanger a critical gateway for trade and the global economy, affecting the trade flows and global supply chanes. In the first half of 2023, trade going through the Suez Canal represented about 12% of global trade, including 30% of container traffic, 10% to 15% of global seaborne cargo and 8% of global liquefied-natural-gas shipments, according to the IMF’s regional economic outlook update for the Middle East and Central Asia At the end of January 2024,  the 10-day cumulative shipping volume through the Suez Canal had dropped close to 50% relative to 2023.

Along with U.S. and British forces in the region, EU warships operating under EUNAVFOR Aspides in the Red Sea, are repelling attacks carried out by unarmed kamikaze drones launched by Houthi rebels against maritime traffic as well as warships in the region. For instance, on Mar. 12, 2024, just few days after shooting down the first drone in support of Aspides, ITS Caio Duilio, an Anti-Air Warfare destroyer of the Italian Navy (Marina Militare), shot down two more drones.

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.