Mission impossible: French warship to exit Red Sea

12:22 17.04.2024 •

Photo: French Navy

France's Aquitaine-class FREMM frigate Alsace has turned tail from the Red Sea after running out of missiles and munitions repelling attacks from the Yemeni armed forces, according to its commander, Jerome Henry.

“We didn’t necessarily expect this level of threat. There was an uninhibited violence that was quite surprising and very significant. [The Yemenis] do not hesitate to use drones that fly at water level, to explode them on commercial ships, and to fire ballistic missiles,” Henry told French news outlet Le Figaro in an exclusive interview published on 11 April. 

“We had to carry out at least half a dozen assistances following [Yemeni] strikes,” he added.

The commander of the Alsace also revealed that, after a 71-day deployment, all combat equipment was depleted.

“From the Aster missile to the 7.62 machine gun of the helicopter, including the 12.7mm, 20mm, or 76mm cannon, we dealt with three ballistic missiles and half a dozen drones,” Henry adds.

According to the French commander, the Franco–Italian Aster missile – each carrying a price tag of up to $2 million – “was pushed to its limits” by the Yemeni armed forces, as the Alsace had to use it “on targets that we did not necessarily imagine at the start.”

Henry added that Sanaa has markedly increased its use of ballistic missiles after relying mainly on suicide drones at the start of the country's pro-Palestine operations in the Red Sea and stressed that the French Navy has not faced such a tough battle since NATO collectively launched its 2011 war on Libya to depose the late ruler Muammar Gaddafi.

"I was there too. It wasn't the same thing. It has been even longer since we have engaged with this level of weaponry and violence. The threat to the boat was much greater in the Red Sea,” Henry notes.

The Alsace entered the Red Sea in late January, a few weeks after the US and the UK launched an illegal war on Yemen to protect Israeli shipping interests. The frigate was deployed as part of the EU naval operation Aspides – Greek for shield.

Aspides came together after several NATO members proved hesitant or outright refused to join the floundering Operation Prosperity Guardian (OPG), which a top US commander called one of the largest battles the navy has fought since the end of World War II.


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