On board a US aircraft carrier, a cat-and-mouse game is taking place with Houthi forces

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Aboard the USS Eisenhower, Red Sea – one by one, more than two dozen aircraft flew by – Navy F/A-18 fighter jets, E/A18 Growler radar jammers, E2 Hawkeye reconnaissance aircraft as well as helicopters and tankers. – From the ship. This aircraft carrier was launched on Saturday night to launch joint US-British attacks on the Iran-backed Houthis.

This was the second night in a row that attack aircraft from the Eisenhower carrier targeted Houthi militants in Yemen who disrupted shipping in the Red Sea. Earlier in the day, sailors aboard the nearby destroyer, USS Mason, demonstrated the speed of decision-making necessary for them to intercept and shoot down incoming missiles fired by the Houthis.

NBC News is currently the only news organization embedded with the US Navy in the Red Sea while it conducts strikes.

Adrenaline and morale appear to be high among the crew members on the two American ships, despite the threat of drones or ballistic missiles coming from the Houthis. As the battleships Eisenhower and Mason and their escorting warships patrol the area, the weather is stormy and warm, with a bright sun reflecting off the rippling waters surrounding them.

US Central Command said in a statement on Saturday that US and British forces “conducted strikes against 36 Houthi targets in 13 locations” in Yemen that included “multiple underground storage facilities, command and control, missile systems, and storage and operations sites for unmanned aerial vehicles, radars, and drones.” pilot”. And helicopters.”

Houthi militants based in Yemen have attacked nearly 30 cargo ships sailing in the Red Sea since November 19. An estimated 12% of global shipping passes through the strategic waterway every day.

Last month, Maersk and other shipping giants It announced the cessation of its operations in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, moves that added time and money to the delivery of goods by ship. If the Houthi attacks continue, they could lead to an increase in consumer prices in the United States as the 2024 elections approach.

Houthi leaders rejected the US and British strikes on Saturday and pledged to continue their attacks in the Red Sea until Israel ends its military operations in Gaza.

Mohammed Al-Bukhaiti, the political leader of the Houthis, said, “Our military operations against the Zionist entity will continue until the aggression against Gaza stops.” “We will meet escalation with escalation, and victory will come only from God.”

An F/A-18E Super Hornet is launched from the flight deck of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower. (MC3 Cameron Pinsky/US Navy file)

US officials refused to comment on the effectiveness of the strikes carried out on Saturday in Yemen. On Friday, an F/A-18 aircraft carrier aircraft intercepted several drones that Houthi forces were preparing to launch, military officers told NBC News.

The Eisenhower, a massive 1,000-foot-long, 100,000-ton Nimitz-class carrier, has a crew of nearly 5,000 and is like a city by the sea, with sprawling hangars, mess halls and sleeping areas. Launched in 1975, the aircraft carrier has circled the globe ever since, deploying during the Iran hostage crisis, Operation Desert Storm and other conflicts and crises.

US officials said that the strikes carried out in Yemen on Saturday were separate from the retaliatory air strikes carried out by US aircraft on Friday in Iraq and Syria after three American soldiers were killed and dozens wounded at an American site in Jordan.

Pentagon Deputy Press Secretary Sabrina Singh pledged that the United States would continue its efforts to weaken Houthi forces and protect shipping in the Red Sea. “We will hold accountable those groups that attack our forces,” she told MSNBC. “And of course, we will protect commercial shipping through the Red Sea region as well.”

Experts in the region have warned that US air strikes are unlikely to be able to destroy all the ballistic missiles and drones that Iran has supplied to Houthi forces in Yemen. With multiple locations where weapons could be hidden in Yemen, including deep underground storage areas, US forces are engaging in a game of cat and mouse with the Houthis.

After the American planes returned safely to the Eisenhower on Saturday, it seemed that there were many clashes with the Houthis awaiting the carrier and its crew.

Courtney Coby reported from the USS Eisenhower and Dan De Luce from Washington.

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