New details of a missile attack on the USS Masion guided missile destroyer have been revealed.
Three missiles were fired by the crew of the USS Mason (DDG-87) guided-missile destroyer in the Red Sea in order to defend it and the nearby USS Ponce (AFSB(I)-15) from an attack of two presumed cruise missiles, fired by the Iran-backed Houthi forces from the Yemini shore, on October 9, the USNI News informational website reported, citing two defense officials.
According to the sources, the vessel was operating in international waters north of the strait of Bab el-Mandeb at the time of the attack. A single Enhanced Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM) and two Standard Missile-2s (SM-2s) were launched by the USS Mason in order to intercept the two missiles. The Nulka anti-ship missile decoy also was used by the ship.
As one of the defense officials told USNI News on October 10, the Mason “employed onboard defensive measures against the first suspected cruise missile, although it is unclear whether this led to the missile striking the water or whether it would have struck the water anyway.” However, it was not specified that the “defensive measure” was a missile fired from the ship.
As the website noted, on October 10, the crew of the USS Mason was not certain if the suspected cruise missile went into the water on its own or was taken out by the SM-2. The Pentagon said that an investigation was ongoing.
According to the Pentagon, the second missile hit the water without being struck by the US interceptor.
Meanwhile, the fact that the missiles were launched by the Mason was not confirmed by spokesman for the Pentagon, Capt. Jeff Davis. On October 11, Davis said that the Yemeni missiles might have been intended to strike the Ponce. He also stressed that “accordingly action” will be taken by the US in response to the findings of the ongoing investigation.
Former aide to retired former-Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert and a naval analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, Bryan Clark, noted that the use of both missiles by the US is “very significant.”
“It might be the first time the SM-2 used against an actual threat for which it was designed,” Clark said. “It’s definitely the first time ESSM has been used… This is obviously a huge deal.”
At the same time, other experts noted that the fact that the Pentagon is not able to say if the missiles were intercepted indicates that this event did not take place. According to them, the Pentagon would actively use this incident to promote the US Navy and the defense industries due to the fact that the system has not ever been used to intercept a target in a real incident before.
On October 1, the Houthis launched an anti-ship missile at the US HSV-2 Swift hybrid catamaran in the Red Sea. The vessel was leased by the UAE government in order to participate in the naval blockade of Yemen and to transport interventionist troops.
The type of the missiles was has not been confirmed by the US sources, but open source naval analyst and retired Navy Capt. Chris Carlson said that it seems that the damage on the Swift was caused by the warhead used in a Chinese-built C-802 anti-ship missile (NATO reporting name CSS-N-8 Saccade). Cold War-era French technology is a base for the C-802.
He noted that the damage on Swift shows that the missile had an explosively formed penetrator (EFP) warhead, which is a well-known feature of the C-802. An EFP launches additional pieces of shrapnel around its circumference after the missile has penetrated the outer skin of a target. Carlson also added that the C-802 carries a “very damaging warhead.”
Meanwhile, the Houthis “denied firing at the USS Mason guided missile destroyer and the USS Ponce,” the Reuters news agency reported on October 11.
At the same day, the spokesman for the Pentagon noted that “there’s no short-term anticipated change in US posture in the region.”