BRITAIN is on the brink of blasting bases in Yemen after Iran-backed Houthi rebels aimed their biggest missile and drone strike at a Royal Navy warship.
Defence Secretary Grant Shapps warned the military might was in place “to do what needs to be done”.
Asked if Britain would launch strikes on Yemen, he responded: “Watch this space”.
It came hours after HMS Diamond unleashed a devastating barrage of Sea Viper missiles and anti-aircraft cannon to defend itself and nearby ships in the Red Sea.
Shapps said the Type 45 destroyer, with 260 crew, appeared to have been targeted in strikes on Tuesday night but the drones and missiles were downed with “no injuries or damage sustained to HMS Diamond or her crew”.
He vowed the Houthi rebels would face “consequences” for launching their largest ever attack on shipping with 18 kamikaze drones, two anti-ship cruise missiles and a ballistic anti-ship missile on Tuesday night.
He also vowed to lobby the Treasury to ramp up spending on defence to 2.5 per cent of GDP.
He said: “We’re living in much more dangerous times.”
Asked if he would press for a rise in the next budget, he said: “Yeah for sure. I am on record saying I think it should be 3 per cent.
“Let’s get to 2.5 per cent first. But I absolutely believe we need spend more.”
HMS Diamond’s Weapons
HMS Diamond’s can store up to 48 Sea Viper missiles in vertical silos on the fore deck.
They launch at four times the speed of sound and “manoeuvre for the kill at G-forces no human can withstand” to hit targets up to 75 miles away.
Together with the warship’s distinctive Samson Radar – which towers 40 metres over the water – the Type 45 destroyers can track a thousands objects the size of a cricket ball up to 250 miles away.
The Sun understands the crew also fired their 30mm DS-30B anti-aircraft cannon which can fire up to 650 rounds a minute and hit targets almost two miles away.
HMS Diamond’s crew shot down seven of the drones in a joint blitz with US warships including the nuclear powered aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and three Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers.
US Central Command said it was the 26th attack on shipping in less than two months.
Shapps said the attacks showed Iran and the Houthis had ignored previous warnings.
Naval sources confirmed the ship was “in the line of fire”.
Iran is thought to have radars on its merchant ship MV Behshad to track vessels in the region and pass the intel to Houthis.
Shapps said there was no doubt that Iran was the “eyes and ears” of the rebels.
He told The Sun: “Iran are helping to guide these attacks. That is certainly the case.
“We are being very clear with Tehran that this is not acceptable.”
But he signalled any UK strikes would target Houthis in Yemen.
Asked if Britain would strike Iran, he said: “Our concern is directly with where these attacks are coming from.
“That is the Houthis who are, as you know, stationed in Yemen and carrying out attacks from Yemen.”
Military experts at the Rusi think tank warned, “it may prove difficult for the West to effectively degrade Houthi capabilities”.
Commenting on how concerning the escalation by the Yemeni rebel group is, Rear Admiral Chris Parry told The Sun: “The end is to impose costs on those countries that are either tacitly or actively supporting Israel.
“What they’re doing is interrupting international trade through an international straits.
“And hoping that will put pressure on both the free world economies but also the governments of the country is concerned.”
At the moment, Rear Admiral Parry isn’t concerned with immediate military action, unless the iron fleet in the Red Sea starts to give in.
He said: “I think right now, the warships in the Red Sea are coping pretty admirably with the threat.
“But as soon as you get an indication that those warships might be overwhelmed by the threat then you will see immediate strike action against elements of the command system of the Houthi rebels and also their military capability.”
He added: “I think over time the international community is going to lose patience with the Houthis as well.”
Q&A on Yemen’s Houthi rebels
WHO are the Houthis?
SHIA Islamist rebels who are in control of much of western Yemen. They formed in the 1990s and are backed by Iran.
Their slogan is “Death to America, Death to Israel, curse the Jews and victory to Islam”.
WHY are they attacking ships?
TO show support for Hamas following the outbreak of its war with Israel. On November 19, the Houthis promised to target vessels they believe are heading to and from Israel.
ARE they a danger to the UK?
YES. The attacks disrupt global supply routes. Ships are sailing further which could see prices and inflation go up.
Delays in natural gas shipments will force energy costs to rise