SPECIAL REPORT / SURFACE WARFARE
An unprovoked missile attack from rebel controlled areas in Yemen in early October saw Sailors aboard the Arleigh Burkeclass guided
missile destroyer USS Mason spring into action. The mis
siles slammed into the water before reaching the ship,
but the incident sparked headlines around the world
because of the rarity of an attack on a U.S. Navy ship.
The event also illustrated just how tough it is to hit
Navy ships, which are more prepared than ever before
for a missile attack with increasingly sophisticated
The attack happened near the BabelMandeb Strait,
a major gateway for oil tankers that use the Suez Canal
en route to Europe. Yemeni fighters have attacked ships
near the strait before.
Cmdr. Bill Urban, a U.S. Fifth Fleet spokesman sta
tioned in Bahrain, said that USS Mason was involved in
an incident in the southern Red Sea after spotting what
appeared to be a missile threat.
“Their captains responded appropriately to the indi
cations they received,” Urban said. “They deployed
countermeasures, and none of the ships in the com
pany were injured or damaged.”
Urban said the countermeasure
systems on the ship are designed
to either engage the missile direct
ly or distract the missile away from
the ship, depending on which sys
tem is used.
“None of the attacks were suc
cessful,” Urban said. “They had
good indications at the time and
they deployed countermeasures.”
“We’re doing a further review of
the engagements with experts in
the continental United States, and
they are reviewing the data from
the engagement,” Urban said.
A Navy official on background confirmed reports that
Standard Missile2s (SM2s) were fired from the ship
along with other countermeasures. The Raytheonmade
SM 2 is a fleetarea air defense weapon with a range of
90 nautical miles and a ceiling altitude of 65,000 feet. It
uses active radar target detection to track its target.
The incident shows just how critical such counter
measures are, as a missile can come from just about
anywhere at any time, and the ship’s crew has to be able
to act quickly.
Bryan Clark, a senior fellow with the Washington
based Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments,
said that the Yemen incident likely involved C802
missiles built on “some ancient technology.” He said the
Navy approach likely was to assess the threat, fire SM2s
at it and then wait and, depending on the range and
if the missiles keep coming, use Evolved Sea Sparrow
Missiles (ESSMs) at about 10 15 miles out.
Because the C802 is a seaskimming missile, it
could be detected once it broke the horizon, which
would not give the crew a whole lot of time.
Defending the Ship
Recent attack shows sophistication of Navy ship self-defense systems
By DANIEL P. TAYLOR, Special Correspondent
Recent events off the coast of Yemen demonstrate just how critical ship self-defense systems are, as a missile attack can come
from just about anywhere at any time.
n The battery of countermeasures can include missiles, decoys
and close-in weapons systems.
n Thirty-seven ships now use the Ship Self-Defense System, a
combat management system that is in service on aircraft carriers
and amphibious ships.
n One future advancement is the Block 2 upgrade of the Surface
Electronic Warfare Improvement Program, which replaces existing
hardware to bolster detection and jamming capabilities on ships.