UK navy ships lack missile capabilities to target Yemen's Houthis
The UK has joined the US in efforts to secure commercial shipping routes in the Red Sea following attacks by Houthi rebels on freighters allegedly linked to Israel.
The Daily Telegraph reported that most "retaliatory strikes" on the Houthis have been carried out by the US Navy destroyers, equipped with Tomahawk-guided missiles, which have a significant advantage over the UK's naval forces in terms of offensive capabilities.
A UK defence source told The Daily Telegraph that HMS Diamond, stationed in the Red Sea, is primarily an air defence destroyer. Its main role has been to counter Houthi drones targeting shipping routes. The vessel's primary armament consists of fixed artillery guns, which limits its offensive range and capabilities.
A former senior defence chief described the situation as a "scandal and completely unsatisfactory", saying constrained decision-making in the Royal Navy was affecting its capabilities.
Head of the UK Armed Forces, Tony Radakin, had previously warned the government about the necessity of speeding up the acquisition processes for land attack missile systems.
The inability of Royal Navy ships to strike the Houthis forced British warplanes based in Cyprus to make a gruelling 4,500km round trip to bomb targets in Yemen.
"Equally, 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," a spokesperson for the UK Ministry of Defence has said.
Only one UK vessel has had Norwegian-made Naval Strike missiles installed.
Army chiefs have voiced concern about budget cuts seriously impacting the capabilities of the British military to function properly, particularly given tensions with Russia and China, and attacks on shipping.
A new cruise missile system for British warships is due to be introduced in 2028.