PARIS — The Danish air-defense frigate Iver Huitfeldt set sail to the Suez Canal on Monday to join the coalition protecting shipping in the Red Sea, just days after an oil-products tanker was hit by a Houthi missile in the Gulf of Aden.
The Iver Huitfeldt will join U.S.-led Operation Prosperity Guardian once parliament gives final approval, expected on Feb. 6, Denmark’s Ministry of Defense said on Monday. France transferred a second frigate to the Red Sea region eight days ago, while Belgium is sending the frigate Louise-Marie to join a nascent European Union mission there.
The frigates will strengthen the multinational fleet defending commercial shipping from Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthis, who have been attacking vessels in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden with missiles and drones. A.P. Møller-Mærsk, the world’s second-largest container shipping company, is headquartered in Denmark, while third-largest container shipper CMA CGM is based in France.
“As a major seafaring nation, Denmark has a clear interest in contributing to maritime security,” Defense Minister Troels Lund Poulsen said in a statement. “The Houthi attacks against international shipping and thus the security of international waters are deeply worrying and a serious threat to the international world order.”
The Houthis have vowed to attack all ships in the Red Sea that are linked to Israel, in response to the war in the Gaza Strip. Trade volume going through the Suez Canal has fallen by an estimated 42% in the past two months in response to the attacks, according to the UN Conference on Trade and Development, which says the waterway handled as much as 15% of global trade in 2023.
The French air-defense frigate Alsace transited the Suez Canal to the Red Sea earlier this month to join the Languedoc already in the area. Alsace, together with the U.S. Navy destroyer Carney and the Indian Navy destroyer Visakhapatnam, helped extinguish a fire onboard the tanker Marlin Luanda on Jan. 27, after the vessel operated by Trafigura and transporting a cargo of naphtha was hit by a Houthi-fired anti-ship ballistic missile in the Gulf of Aden.
The U.K. frigate HMS Diamond over the weekend used its air-defense missiles to fend off a drone attack from the Houthis in the Red Sea. The American, British and French navies have been regularly engaging Houthi missiles and drones since December, and the U.S. and the U.K. in the past month have been carrying out strikes against Houthi targets in Yemen in retaliation.
Operating a multinational coalition allows vessels to be taken out of the operational theater before they run out of ordnance, with partners able to take duty stations, Adm. Sir Ben Key, First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff of the Royal Navy, said at the Paris Naval Conference last week. He said the region around the Red Sea has a number of “really effective ports,” for example in Egypt and Saudi Arabia as well as in Oman, that allow for resupply of missiles and engineering support.
The U.S. is working to develop reloading at sea, with U.S. Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro having asked for experiments to see what that might look like “sometime this summer,” U.S. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Lisa Franchetti said at the Paris conference.
Rudy Ruitenberg is a Europe correspondent for Defense News. He started his career at Bloomberg News and has experience reporting on technology, commodity markets and politics.