A two million dollar missile versus a $2,000 drone.

In the escalating conflict between Houthi militants and the United States in the Red Sea, a new concern is surfacing – the staggering cost of defending against drone attacks. This article delves into the increasing expenses incurred by the U.S. Navy as it grapples with the threat posed by Houthi drones and missiles.

The Rising Threat

Houthi Attacks on the Rise

As Iranian-backed militants intensify their assaults on commercial ships navigating critical global shipping routes, the U.S. Navy finds itself engaged in intercepting an alarming number of drones and missiles. Recent statistics reveal a surge in attacks, with the USS Carney intercepting 14 attack drones in a single day.

A Two Million Dollar Missile Versus a $2,000 Drone

Motivations Behind the Attacks

Houthi leaders claim these attacks are in solidarity with the Palestinians, emphasizing that they won’t cease until Israel halts its operations in Gaza. In response, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has initiated an international maritime coalition to safeguard shipping and counter these growing threats.

The Cost Conundrum

Expensive Missiles vs. Low-Cost Drones

The cost disparity between using high-priced naval missiles, which can reach up to $2.1 million per shot, against relatively inexpensive Houthi drones, estimated at a few thousand dollars each, is causing alarm within the Defense Department. The financial inefficiency raises questions about the sustainability of the current defense strategy.

Calls for Cost-Effective Solutions

Experts emphasize the need for the Department of Defense to explore cost-effective alternatives for air defense. As former Defense Department official Mick Mulroy suggests, the U.S. must adopt systems aligned with the costs adversaries incur, ensuring a more balanced and sustainable approach.

Exploring Defense Options

The Standard Missile-2: A Viable Choice?

While operational details remain classified, insiders point to the potential use of the Standard Missile-2, a medium-range air defense weapon with a $2.1 million price tag. The article explores the effectiveness of this weapon in countering Houthi drones.

Cheaper Alternatives

Consideration is given to less expensive options, such as the ship’s 5-inch gun armed with anti-aircraft projectiles, presenting a more economical solution. However, limitations in range pose challenges, requiring a delicate balance between cost-effectiveness and operational efficiency.

Evaluating the Costs

Calculating the Price of Defense

The article breaks down the costs associated with various defense options, comparing the expenses of naval missiles, the Evolved Sea Sparrow missile, and the 20mm Close-In Weapons-System cannon. This analysis sheds light on the financial intricacies of safeguarding naval forces against Houthi threats.

Impact of Close-Range Defense

Experts emphasize the potential risks of employing close-range defense options, underlining the delicate balance between cost considerations and the efficacy of intercepting Houthi weapons.

The Geopolitical Landscape

Global Implications

The disruptions caused by Houthi attacks extend beyond military concerns. The article explores how these incidents have already impacted international commerce, affecting the Suez Canal, a vital artery for global trade.

International Response

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s announcement of Operation Guardian Prosperity signals a commitment to an international response. However, complexities arise as some Arab countries express reservations due to perceived affiliations with Israel.


In conclusion, the escalating conflict in the Red Sea presents a military challenge and a financial quandary for the U.S. Navy. Balancing the need for robust defense with cost considerations becomes paramount in addressing the evolving threat landscape.


1. Why are Houthi attacks specifically targeting commercial ships?

Houthi leaders claim their attacks are a demonstration of support for the Palestinians and will persist until Israel ceases operations in Gaza.

2. What are the potential risks of using close-range defense options?

Close-range options, though cost-effective, pose the risk of increased impact if Houthi weapons approach the ship, requiring a delicate balance in their deployment.

3. How has international commerce been affected by Houthi attacks?

The attacks have disrupted shipping in the passage connecting the Indian Ocean to the Suez Canal, impacting around 12% of world trade annually.

4. What is Operation Guardian Prosperity, and how many countries are involved?

Operation Guardian Prosperity is a new maritime task force announced by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. Nineteen countries have joined the working group, with nine actively participating.

5. How is the Pentagon addressing the financial concerns of using expensive missiles?

The article explores calls for the Department of Defense to consider cost-effective alternatives and reevaluate its approach to air defense in the face of escalating expenses.