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US-Supplied Defense System Failed To Intercept Houthi Missile Attack On Saudi Capital


Originally appeared at Zero Hedge

A new study in the New York Times suggests that Saudi Arabia’s state of the art defense system failed to intercept the ballistic missile fired by Yemen’s Houthi rebels which nearly hit Riyadh’s international airport on November 4th. The report contradicts the official claims of the Saudi and American governments, which both announced immediately after the incident that the US-supplied Patriot missile defense system had successfully intercepted the Houthi fired Scud.

The analysis, which utilized open-source material in the form of available video and social media photos of the aftermath of the attack, was conducted by a team of missile experts, and threatens to shake confidence in the US system, which is currently implemented by American allies around the world from South Korea and Taiwan to Turkey, Israel and Japan, among others.

US-Supplied Defense System Failed To Intercept Houthi Missile Attack On Saudi Capital

Image via Indian Express, representational image

And notably President Trump himself had announced while aboard Air Force One on the day following the attack, “Our system knocked the missile out of the air.” Trump also emphasized the importance of demonstrable success of the systems and added, “That’s how good we are. Nobody makes what we make, and now we’re selling it all over the world.”

But The New York Times report begins with a flat contradiction of that claim:

The official story was clear: Saudi forces shot down a ballistic missile fired by Yemen’s Houthi rebel group last month at Saudi Arabia’s capital, Riyadh. It was a victory for the Saudis and for the United States, which supplied the Patriot missile defense system.

…But an analysis of photos and videos of the strike posted to social media suggests that story may be wrong. Instead, evidence analyzed by a research team of missile experts appears to show the missile’s warhead flew unimpeded over Saudi defenses and nearly hit its target, Riyadh’s airport. The warhead detonated so close to the domestic terminal that customers jumped out of their seats.

The Houthi missile was identified at the time as a Burqan-2, revealed in a video of the November 4 launch produced by a Houthi group, and is a variant of the Scud missile commonly used in the region. The attack took Middle East observers by surprise as the missile traveled about 600 miles and reveals a growing sophistication in the Houthi arsenal – all of which led to a number of researchers to claim Iranian origins of the weapon, something which Iran and its regional allies continue to deny.

US-Supplied Defense System Failed To Intercept Houthi Missile Attack On Saudi Capital

Image via How Stuff Works/Raytheon

As part of the NYT investigation experts primarily examined the multiple videos and photos of missile debris locations and missile parts, and concluded that the Saudis couldn’t have intercepted the warhead, which further appears to have exploded on impact, something which wouldn’t have happened had the projectile been effectively intercepted.

The report continues:

Saudi officials said the debris, which appears to belong to a downed Burqan-2, showed a successful shootdown. But an analysis of the debris shows that the warhead components – the part of the missile that carries the explosives – were missing. The missing warhead signaled something important to the analysts: that the missile may have evaded Saudi defenses.

…This would explain why the debris in Riyadh only appears to consist of the rear tube. And it suggests that the Saudis may have missed the missile, or only hit the tube after it had separated and begun to fall uselessly toward earth.

Researchers also examined extensive video and eyewitness testimony from the airport and in the vicinity of what the Saudi authorities initially reported as mere falling debris, however, the evidence points to an explosion that could only be explained by the impact of the warhead, which likely evaded the defensive measures. Videos recorded an explosion which occurred at a location very near the main domestic terminal of the airport, the immediate aftermath of which was clearly visible and was strongly felt inside the terminal.

Video sequence showing footage collected from the November 4th attack.

The warhead, the report says, continued on its trajectory after mid-air separation from the rest of the missile, which it is designed to do, making it harder to intercept as it nears its target. Though Saudi officials claimed that it was only debris from an intercepted missile that hit the airport, researchers concluded:

The blast was small, and satellite imagery of the airport taken immediately before and after the blast is not detailed enough to capture the crater from the impact, the analysts said. But it does show ground damage from the emergency vehicles, supporting the finding that the warhead hit just off the runway.

While the Houthis missed their target, Mr. Lewis said, they got close enough to show that their missiles can reach it and can evade Saudi defenses. “A kilometer is a pretty normal miss rate for a Scud,” he said. “The Houthis got very close to creaming that airport.”

One scientist cited in the report, Laura Grego, noted that it’s hugely significant that the Saudis fired five times at the incoming missile and missed. “You shoot five times at this missile and they all miss? That’s shocking,” she said. “That’s shocking because this system is supposed to work.”

Though the Saudi government didn’t respond to the report, and will likely not address the findings, it will be interesting to see the Patriot system’s performance during the next incursion. As fighting is continuing to intensify in neighboring Yemen, it is likely only a matter of time.



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  • MeMadMax

    A weapon is only as good as the person that wields it…

    With that being said, if the operators of the defense system are noobs, then of course the system will fail…

    • BL

      As if the operator is manually steering the missile….fool

      • Gregory Louis

        Ummm you still need to fire the missile an operate the system in it entirety the thing isn’t a mindless missile terminator that shoots shit automatically it’s is it fire and forget like the javelin missile

    • Pave Way IV

      Saudi Arabia would never let their incompetent military touch these things, MeMadMax. These are either manned by US military (but only as ‘advisors’) or by Raytheon contractors.

      The Patriot system is mostly fire and forget anyways. It takes a lot of skill and work to keep the whole system ready 24×7, but the operator does little after permitting a launch. The tiny digital gnomes of Raytheon and Lockheed-Martin run things after that. I’m just wondering why either the meat-based or digital operators needed to launch four or five missiles at a single, incoming target. Seems excessive unless you’re that unsure of the hit probability.

    • Starlight

      Good god, how wrong can one person be. War toys are made for IDIOTS, for only idiots volunteer to be cannon fodder on behalf of their elite masters. “Foolproof” literally came from the thinking behind weapon systems( in the industrial age).

  • Solomon Krupacek

    The mainstream media wrote about saudis lies days ago. :P

  • Manuel Flores Escobar

    Iran has armored the warhead of his long range missile to avoid that all Israeli antimissile system like patriot, arrow, David sling, Iron Dome…be ineffective vs Irani Missile!..it means that more than 1.000 missile can hit Israel without be destroyed!

    • FlorianGeyer

      I do hope so :)

  • Jesus

    This is bad news for Israel since Syria possess hundreds of similar missiles capable of saturating Israel’s anti ballistic missile system; we know the Patriot is of limited capability, as far as David’s sling and Arrow they are not combat tested. And then there is Iran with a significant arsenal of long range missiles capable of saturating Israel’s defenses. David’s sling has to be as good as the one that killed Goliath, otherwise, BS and hype are useless in an actual conflict.

    • Gregory Louis

      That why they developed iron dome system

      • Jesus

        Iron dome is useless against ballistic missiles, it is supposed to work against home made rockets, mortar and artillery shells. Tamir missile is only 90 kgs, similar to a Tor or Pantsir missile. At $40,000 a piece it is an expensive way of shooting down a mortar round that costs $100 or less.

        • Gregory Louis

          I didn’t know….??

        • Tommy Jensen

          Our allies pay….LOL.

      • Starlight

        Iron dome doesn’t work- not against REAL missiles- which is why the zionist POS is so cheap. It is entirely for show- puffed up by the jewish controlled mainstream media that will always, 1984 style, claim iron dome has shot down missiles from ‘oceania, or eurasia, or whichever power we’ve always been at war with’.

        Israel’s tactic is that of the pure bully. Picking fights with the helpless kids. Threatening to “burn down the school” if a less helpless person takes the bully on. Israelis are as thick as they come, so their ‘tech’ is pure junk. All the ‘good stiuff’ in Israel is provided by the british, americans, french and germans.

        The zionists understand why the pen is mightier than the sword, when jews have taken control of most media outlets. A bully does most of his work with his mouth.

    • Solomon Krupacek

      jesus, the allknower again hints pearls :DDDD

      boyooo, the scuds are not precise. also this houthi missile missed the target by 1 km. so, practically syria can not harm israel.

      • Jesus

        What is the population density per square km around Ryad, compared to Haifa or Tel Aviv? What is the size of S. Arabia compared to Israel? Syria has over 1000 short to mid range ballistic missiles that can easily overwhelm Israeli air defenses, even at 75 percent success rate, over 300 missiles would make it through. I do not believe Israel has 750 antiballistic missile rounds deployed.
        Combine that with the Hezbollah rocket arsenal ……followed by Iran’s arsenal.
        Having short borders favors Israel in defending itself effectively in a conventional war, the same way Leonidas with a few hundred soldiers held off the Persians at Thermopylae. Then the Persians used their archers to attack the Spartans from above that spelled their immediate doom.

        • Solomon Krupacek

          guy, first think, after write!!! scuds are at least hundreds of kms from IL. if you miss the targer by 4-500 m, you will not eliminate. so, only redundant blazing.

          • Garga

            Solomon, sometimes you don’t need to destroy any particular targets, if your aim is to terrorize the civilian population. The exact same thing that Saddam was doing using his missiles on Iranian cities. Even a very inaccurate missile (up to a couple of KMs of error) has a good chance to kill a few wherever it hits in a large and densely populated city.

      • wwinsti

        Did you read the same article? It said the original scud had a CEP of 1 km. The Houthi version missed the runway by meters.

        • Solomon Krupacek

          bullshit! i read lot of articles, already days ago, and in all, inclusive SF is clearly, that THIS missile missed by 1 km. what do you think, from where is this number? i saw also satellite pictures. houtis want to hit the teminal, not the fields nearby airport.

          • wwinsti

            Then you don’t grasp the significance of a missile strike shutting down an airport. The Houthis also fired a cruise missile at a nuclear reactor. They missed by a much greater margin, but the Saudis are eager to wind this war down. Unlike you, the Saudis aren’t going to count on their opponents continually missing.

      • Joe

        Don’t be silly. Assad’s missiles are far more accurate that the poor Yemen.

        Wonder why hy he did not fire a few after every air strike. He should.

        Maybe too scared to start a new war because he knows the Israelis or Americans can attack others but others cannot attack them mentality.

        These guys just cannot stomach it

    • wwinsti

      Not just any patriot, but PAC 3 version, one of the latest.

    • You can call me Al

      Hezbollah are said to have 100,000 as well.

  • Graeme Rymill

    From the above article: “the evidence points to an explosion that could only be explained by the impact of the warhead”… and further on this quote appears “The blast was small, and satellite imagery of the airport taken immediately before and after the blast is not detailed enough to capture the crater from the impact”.

    The Burqan 2-H is a modified Scud. A successful Scud warhead detonation creates a huge crater.

    In 1991 one Iraqi Scud that hit Tel Aviv created a crater that was 60 foot wide and 20 foot deep. Another report on Scud missiles in the 1991 Gulf War states: “the destructiveness of a conventional Scud-type
    missile with a 450 meter CEP bears mention. The missile’s supersonic speed imparts considerable energy upon impact. The missiles fired during the Iran-Iraq War typically dug craters at least 10 meters across and several meters deep.”

    Patriot missiles may well have missed the warhead. However, for whatever reason, it is clear the warhead didn’t explode.

    • Jonathan Cohen

      The modification might have involved shrinking the warhead in order to make room for added range, armor, or other countermeasures.

  • chris chuba

    If the Houthis had 5,000 of these missiles then the Saudis would be leaving Yemen today instead of starving them. They have only been able to fire about 30 to 50 of these longer range missiles into the KSA over two years. This shows what an effective deterrent a ballistic missile arsenal can be to an aggressive neighbor.

    So if anyone rails about how the only reason Iran has ballistic missiles is so that they can carry nuclear warheads, well, you know that aint true.

    • Gregory Louis

      Well iran used them to strike targets in Syria solo yeah pretty effective

    • Jonathan Cohen

      Same goes for N. Korea, which has ABORTION RIGHTS to defend.

      • Thegr8rambino

        lol how do u know they have that?

      • ruca

        Oh shit this guy

    • Starlight

      WRONG- KSA has no real army of its own- just ‘mercenaries’ which these days mostly means the official RAF of Britain. Britain nuked the one major resource the Houthis had- the hardened government facility on the outskirts of the capital. If Yemen had more real weapons, the British and French would have bombed them to ashes by now- just as the Russians wiped out the artillery units of the neo-nazis invading East Ukraine.

      Yeah for sure the Empire powers PRETEND it ain’t them (in Ukraine or Yemen), but it is really when they are essential. Betas on our side go “no, the russians were never in Ukraine”. Alphas say “of course Putin did whatever it took to ASSIST the defenders”.

  • Garga

    The size of impact crater is the direct result of the payload. The bigger and more potent explosive, the greater crater.
    modified kind of SCUD that Iraq used on Iran (Al-Hussein) had a 500kg warhead and a range of ~650km. These missiles were the modified version of SCUD-B (~300km range, 1000kg payload). Iraq had to reduce the payload to increase the propellant volume and therefore range to hit Tehran.

    Yemen said they fired a Burkan H-2 which is a modified SCUD, probably SCUD-C (~600km rang, 600kg payload). The shortest line between Riyadh and Yemeni territory under Houthi/Yemen army control is about 860km. Clearly they had to decrease the payload to increase the fuel and extend the range. I think it was more to show they “can” hit Saudi capital than actually destroy anything. That may explain the small size of impact crater.

    Scud missile family
    Al-Hussein missile
    Burkan H2 missile

    • Graeme Rymill

      Even if it had a warhead that was only half the size of an unmodified Scud the crater should be visible in these satellite photos. The company planet.com that supplied the satellite photo boasts to having sub-meter imaging. Even at twice or three times lower resolution a crater should be visible. The V-2 with a 1000 kilogram warhead could displace 3000 tones of earth. Half that size warhead still produces a big crater!

      According to the satellite photo’s impact location this is just over a kilometre from Terminal 5 . Where are the photos of shattered windows and broken glass?

      A Tomahawk cruise missile has 1,000 pounds (450 kg) warhead. Here is a crater that one made. It looks to be 5-6 metres across.http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2011/03/22/article-1368633-0B49C8F400000578-115_964x628.jpg

      • Garga

        I don’t know, where’s the aerial pics of the airport? Could you find one?

        Re. broken glass, you realize this is an airport, which means thick and reinforced/security glasses? Did we see a pic of the airport AFTER the missile attack?

        That’s a very small crater in the pic. Did the warhead detonate? Very different than 3000 tones displacement of V2 (equal to a 10x10x10m cube of earth).

        • Graeme Rymill

          To see the satellite photo you have to go to the original source for SouthFront’s article:


          If the warhead exploded the there would be photos of damage. It is an international airport after all with thousands of airport staff, airline staff and passengers.

          This video has a section that apparently shows people within the terminal reacting (very calmly) to the explosion:


          Crater size will vary considerably depending on variables: “Depending on the type of ground it hits, the angle of impact and other factors, the Mk 82 bomb [227 kg] will produce a crater with a diameter of between 4.6 to 10.7 m and depth between 0.76 and 4.27 m”

          And finally:

          ” Unlike debris, a high-explosive warhead produces intense destruction in a relatively localized area. The blast wave generated by the explosion can knock down walls and destroy nearby buildings, and can shatter windows over a much greater distance. Any small building directly hit by such a warhead would be completely destroyed. If the warhead explodes on or near the surface, a crater will be produced. Thus, there should be little difficulty in distinguishing between the explosion of a warhead and damage caused
          by debris for anyone who had access to the area after an attack.”

          So a 500kg or 600 kg warhead explodes “a few hundred yards off of runway 33R, and about a kilometer from the crowded domestic terminal.” No photos of a crater on social media! Zero damage to any structure. Just emergency vehicles and “ground damage from vehicles” on the satellite photo. Conclusion: the warhead hit but didn’t explode.

          • Garga

            Fair enough. Thank you for your input.

            I think Yemenis made their point by their missile merely reaching Riyadh.

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  • Nuno Cardoso da Silva

    The US is heading for disaster in the ME, either political or military disaster. I can hardly wait to see it happening…

    • John Whitehot

      what i’d like to see happen is the criminal elite dominating the US policies to end up in histories latrines. I don’t see neither the US people or armed forces as enemies – their suffering is caused by that same elite that causes the largest part of the world’s problems.

      • zman

        I’d like to see the same thing, but at some point the US populace is going to have to suffer some real pain for the entire people to wake the fuck up. I’m American and I’ve come to the conclusion that without us suffering some of the same war crimes visited upon us, the majority of idiots will continue to believe the worst of liars.There is a crack in the wall though…the media has been so arrogant and sloppy, with the politicians lining up to enforce so called ‘real news’, they have pushed awareness on the public. Hopefully your (and my) dreams will come true sooner, rather than later.

        • John Whitehot

          yes I concur to a large degree.

          The US society, at all levels, suffers from an intrinsic immaturity in respect to European and Asian ones.

          Eurasian nations can look back at several centuries of wars, disease, famines and calamities in their histories. There is no doubt that americans are mostly unable to relate and mediate with eurasians due to this fact – it’s a form of richness; that Eurasia enjoys, and that in the end conditions the choices of the countries especially when it comes to certain subjects.

          The most ready example, is the easiness by which the US goes to war, very opposed to the caution used by Europeans and Asians.

          For a while, it seemed that the Vietnam war had somehow smudged the US public support for war in general – and that war was fought thousands of miles away from home.

          With Desert Storm, the military-industrial complex, in collaboration with medias like CNN, has scored a huge propaganda point, by convincing the public that wars can be won by technology alone, and that the US was so advanced over its enemies in that respect, that something like Nam would never happen again.

          The jewish penetration in US institutions and leadership, is also indicative of how the generic americans are naive and immature compared to them.

          Jews (i’m not generalizing) have basically taken over the interactions between the leadership and the people. They are able to convince the people that the government is right in doing certain things, as much as they are able to pressurize the government by turning the people against it.

          Sadly, they face more resistance in Europe, and the current policy is to weaken European societies with mass immigration and other ways to destroy the countries ability to support their inborn populations (basically, welfare systems and work rights).

          The “left” is dead in Europe for this reason; the medias have massively conditioned leftist activists and population in taking up causes like lesbians rights and migrants acceptance – and abandon any issues about working conditions, financial justice and social equality.

          It’s the first steps to destroy the foundations of democratic governments and give all temporal power to multinational corporations.

    • Jonathan Cohen

      I wish disaster far more on ABORTION BANNING KSA, as on all ABORTION BANNERS, Including Assad.

      • wwinsti

        Cohen’s getting removed from my viewership.

      • ruca

        Why would an impotent wacky job be concerned about abortion rights? Go pet a crocodile.

  • John Whitehot

    we SF commenters were able to prove that the saudis didn’t intercept the missile(s), thanks to users posting videos and discussing.

    I think it’s a nice accomplishment and this article recognizes it.

  • Thegr8rambino

    houthis need to be firing like dozens of these simultaenously to really hurt saudis

  • Starlight

    Russian anti-missile systems work- Israeli and American ones are just for show. The West relies on 1984 style propaganda, so much of its military strategy is like the ‘puffer fish’, or an angry cat. LOOK more dangerous than you really are.

    During the first gulf war, the Americans claimed to have shot down many of Saddam’s missiles. When you weren’t looking, 18+ months later, it turned out they didn’t even hit one missile- not one. The EXCUSE was the timer chip in the anti-missile missiles had long since malfunctioned since they had been in storage so long- but this was just an excuse.

    Sadly Putin is using Syria as a weapon testing and troop training ground. The Russians are essentially using cheap disposable methods on Israeli missiles, to see how low-tech they can go. Russian EM countermeasures would safely disable the missiles, but Russia knows this works so rarely bothers using this. Instead Russia is using the latest version of cheap ‘trash’ tech to see how much usefulness bottom-of-the-barrel options can provide. Russian engineers get to tweak these cheap-n-cheerful systems to explore their maximum capabilities.

    When missiles get through and destroy key Syrian installations, Putin couldn’t care less. Remember, this is the man that claims KSA and Israel are the two greatest partners of Russia in the region. This is the man who sells S-400 air defense systems to Turkey and KSA, but won’t even sell s-300 systems to Syria (or s-400 systems to Iran).

    For sure, having THIS Russia as an ‘ally’ is better than any alternative for Syria- but whereas NATO fully protects its friends and allies, Russia never dreams of doing the same – and this is Russia’s terrible weakness.

    Russia would like to reach the point where it can eliminate Israeli missiles, without risking the Israeli jets, with the lowest tech possible. It’s part of Puin’s “can’t we all just get along” strategy where threatened lesser nations would have enhanced means of direct self defense against missiles ONLY. As an ideal it just doesn’t work, while one or more Empire powers are determined to do great evil.

    In the meantime Putin simply emboldens the murderous regime of Israel- a massive mistake. Only by slapping down Israel hard could Putin defuse the danger. This way Putin essentially gives the jewsih state the green light to escalate up to a full blown decapicitation strike on Assad and his government. In forums across the net, the zionist horrors are demanding Israel steps up the attacks and flattens the governmental regions of Damascus.

    Look- the war toys and their capabilities are NEVER the point. The men behind the toys are what matters. Putin just can’t play the Great Game. He is an APPEASER down to the bottom of his soul. Many ‘muscular vicars’ faced Hitler before WW2, especially British ones. They weren’t weak men, just very foolish and naive ones. Hitler laid down in Mein Kampf that he could NEVER be appeased. The zionists and the Deep State they serve have made the same thing clear to Russia.

    Only a ‘punch on the nose’ will do. One bloody nose from Russia and the zionist regime in Isreal collapses like a poorly built house of cards. But you’ll be waiting for that punch forever from Putin.

    • Solomon Krupacek


    • Tommy Jensen

      Whatever, you must admit that Putin got a far way with everything in the period yes?

      From your armchair, your budweiser in the left hand and your raised finger on the right, you claim that Stalin, Churchill, Roosefelt, Hitler and Putin were clumbheads and should have done it different.

    • John Whitehot

      it’s a pity that you did not stop with the phrase “The men behind the toys are what matters”. I would had upvoted it.

      It’s almost like you decided to go insane at the following paragraph.

  • RamboDave

    If you recall back in 1991, some months after the Gulf war concluded, contrary to what we had saw on T.V.,it was finally revealed that the Patriot system failed to destroy a single Scud missile warhead fired by Saddam toward Israel. In fact, the exact same thing happened as described in the article above. The Patriot missile could only hit the missile tube, not the actual warhead.
    That was 26 years ago. Just look at this Ratheon rip-off (as well as your tax dollars) that has been perpetuated since then !

  • Starlight

    The REAL story is the EM countermeasures used to crash the cruise missile aimed at the under-construction nuclear facility in UAE. The irony is that these electronic warfare countermeasures were as likely deployed by official russian mercenaries using russian tech as western mercenaries using british tech. For both sides work for KSA and its allies (for great financial rewards).

    • Solomon Krupacek


  • Thegr8rambino

    houthis should aim alot of missiles right at MBS palace/house whatever, that would be fckin amazing :))))

    • Solomon Krupacek

      why? if kill mbs, the rest of family will be happy and doubles the efforts to eliminate houthis.

      • Thegr8rambino

        what?? What sense does that make? Killing MBS would be Saudi decapitation of govt :))

        • Monte George Jr

          With a reserve of literally thousands of Saudi Princes waiting in the wings, there is no possibility of ‘decapitating’ the Saudi rulership. This hydra will manifest new heads faster than anyone can chop them off. Their only vulnerability is in their economy. Conclusion: target the oil wells/pipelines/refineries/export facilities.

    • chris chuba

      They don’t have enough of the long range type unless they have figured out how to make them. They are living off of the stuff they got from N. Korea and Soviet arsenal, pity.

  • John

    No matter how you slice it, this is very bad news for the Occidentals. First it was BS that it was shot down. Next it is some that wanted to see past the smoke screen. Finally the truth is revealed. So much of the game is coming unglued now. I doubt that the end of the game will go smoothly. I wish well to all.

  • Tommy Jensen

    The US Military anti-missile systems can intercept anything and everything on this planet,……stealth!

    If US Army´s anti-missile systems do not intercept and hit the target, its because we dont want to intercept and hit it….LOL….because we want you to believe it didnt work….and you believed in it……LOL.

    We are in control, trust me. We controle everything and we controle even YOU……….LOL.

  • Rob

    Yep, same old FAILURE of the yanks “patriot”…. no wonder these are useless, just like a yank “patriot”