brand logo
Navy preps to join Op. Prosperity Guardian

Navy preps to join Op. Prosperity Guardian

09 Jan 2024 | BY Asiri Fernando

The Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) is making preparations to dispatch a patrol vessel to join the United States (US)-led “Operation Prosperity Guardian” which aims to ensure the freedom of navigation in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, which is under threat from Iranian-backed Houthi groups in war-ravaged Yemen.

Following last week’s announcement by President and Defence Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe that Sri Lanka will support collective efforts to protect critical supply chains which are under threat in the Red Sea region, the SLN yesterday (8) confirmed that the fleet was ready to dispatch an offshore patrol vessel (OPV) to the region in support of Operation Prosperity Guardian. “Yes, the Navy is ready to dispatch a vessel as required,” Navy Spokesperson Captain Gayan Wickramasuriya told The Daily Morning. However, the decision on when a vessel will be dispatched is yet to be finalised, he said.

Meanwhile, a senior defence official told The Daily Morning on the condition of anonymity that the SLN deployment may not necessarily patrol the high-risk Red Sea region, as Operation Prosperity Guardian covers a wider maritime domain which includes the Gulf of Aden and the West Indian Ocean. 

“Given that our vessels are not best suited (equipped) to counter threats directed by the Houthi groups, particularly due to the lack of air defence and counter-missile systems, the OPV may patrol areas outside the Houthi weapons range. There have been several boarding attempts, and we can patrol such areas,” the defence official opined. It is learnt that the Government is considering SL Naval Service Gajabahu, SLNS Vijayabahu, and SLNS Parakramabahu as potential candidates to dispatch to support the effort.

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin formally announced the initiation of the multi-national security initiative known as Operation Prosperity Guardian as a direct response to the increasing threats to international shipping posed by Houthi forces in the Southern Red Sea, Bab-el-Mandeb, and the Gulf of Aden on 18 December 2023. The Houthi’s have claimed that their attacks on shipping are aimed at pressuring Israel to halt its much criticised counter-strike on the densely populated Gaza strip in Palestine. 

Forces supporting Operation Prosperity Guardian will operate under the umbrella of the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) and the leadership of one of its task forces, “Task Force 153”, which is a US Navy-led initiative focused on maritime security in the Red Sea. In December 2023, Sri Lanka joined the CMF partnership, becoming its 39th member.

Houthi attacks on commercial shipping from mid-November last year has seen nearly 30 attacks on commercial vessels to date. According to the US Naval Forces Central Command, more than 1,600 merchant ships have safely transited the Red Sea since mid-December when the US launched Operation Prosperity Guardian. 

Houthis have launched shore-based ballistic missiles, coastal anti-ship missiles, and explosive-carrying kamikaze drones to attack commercial vessels in the Bab-el-Mandeb Straits. A recent attempt to board a bulk carrier by Houthis using four speed boats was repelled when helicopters from a US frigate returned fire and destroyed three of them. The Houthi groups have warned that countries who support the US efforts in the Red Sea will face consequences. 

More News..