It’s coming up on two years since the series of reported attacks on US Navy ships off the coast of
It’s worth taking a look back at the events and see what lessons can be
learned. As a reminder, here’s the
timeline and description of events. Note
that the descriptions are pieced together from many reports. As such, I’ve not included any specific references
because the reports, at the time, were fragmentary, sometimes contradictory,
and far from definitive. Yemen
USS Mason (DDG-87), a Burke class destroyer, operating near the Bab-el-Mandeb strait off
’s southern coast, in concert with
the USS Ponce (AFSB-15), was reportedly targeted by two missiles fired
territory in Yemen . Both missiles fell short and impacted
the water. Yemen
Some reports state that the missiles were detected over a 60 minute period, suggesting two separate launches of one missile each.
Initial reports indicated that Mason employed countermeasures but did not launch its own missiles. Later reports indicated that Mason fired two SM-2 Standard missiles and one RIM-162 ESSM missile as well as deploying its Nulka decoys.
Official statements say that it is not clear whether the attacking missiles were shot down or crashed on their own.
One report indicated that one of the missiles traveled more than two dozen nautical miles before crashing into the water. Two dozen miles would be an incredibly short distance for an anti-ship missile. This report seems highly questionable.
Confirming the uncertainty, USNI News reported that the crew of the Mason was uncertain if the suspected cruise missile was taken out by an SM-2 or went into the water on its own. The Pentagon claimed that an investigation was ongoing.
Some reports suggested that the missiles coming from
might have been intended to strike Yemen . Ponce
12 October 2016 Mason was again targeted by missiles fired from Yemeni
territory while operating in the Bab el-Mandeb strait. Mason was not
hit by the two missiles, which were fired from near the city of Al Hudaydah. While the Navy is not certain whether
the first incoming missile was intercepted or it just fell into the sea,
officials claim Mason successfully intercepted the second missile at
a distance of about 8 miles (13 km).
13 October 2016, ships attacked three radar sites in
Houthi-held territory which the Navy claims had been involved in the earlier anti-ship
missile attacks against US ships. Tomahawk cruise missiles were launched from USS Nitze. The
Pentagon assessed that all three sites were destroyed. U.S.
The areas in
where the radars were located was
near Ras Isa, north of Mukha and near Khoka. Yemen
USS Mason was targeted in a third attack by five anti-ship cruise missiles while operating in the Red Sea north of the Bab el-Mandeb strait. Reports claim that Mason launched radar decoys, an infrared decoy, and several SM-2 Standard missiles in response, either neutralizing or intercepting four of the five incoming missiles. The Navy claims the fifth incoming missile was neutralized by a radar decoy launched from USS Nitze, after Mason alerted her to the threat. Thus, the Mason was the only ship to have seen the claimed attack.
One report puts it this way: one of the
ships saw on radar what sailors
believed to be missiles being fired on it out of U.S. at night. Well, was it or wasn’t it attacking missiles? Yemen
Here’s a quote from CNO Richardson which indicates the general uncertainty and inability to even determine whether an attack even occurred.
“The latest is there has been recent activity today with the Mason once again. It appears to have come under attack in the
Red Sea again from coastal defense cruise
missiles fired from the coast of .” (1) [emphasis
So, according to the CNO, the Mason “appears” to have come under attack. Put another way, no one can say for sure if an attack actually occurred.
To the best of my knowledge, no Navy report has ever been publicly issued about the purported attacks and I have not seen any results from the subsequent official investigation.
It is obvious that the Navy has no definitive idea whether any missiles were actually launched against any Navy ships. If they were, they would likely have offered much more public proof because such attacks are potential windfalls for the Navy in terms of going to Congress and asking for money.
It is further obvious that the Navy has no evidence that any of the defensive missiles hit any attacking missiles if such even existed. If they had, they would have plastered the news all over the media since successful combat operations would bolster recruiting efforts, justify increased budgets, “prove” the validity of Navy weapon systems, and help make a case for more ships – the thing the Navy wants more than anything else.
We see, then, that despite the most advanced suite of shipboard sensors ever constructed, despite the combined sensor systems of multiple ships, despite the use of networked naval data sharing which make up the foundation of the Third Offset Strategy, despite the oversight of satellite coverage, the Navy appears to have no credible evidence that actual attacks occurred and no credible evidence that any attacking missiles were shot down if there were actual attacks.
Regarding the question of whether the Saturday attacks were real, it is telling that there was no retaliatory attack as there was after the Sunday and Wednesday attacks. The US Navy didn’t hesitate to respond to those attacks and yet a supposedly larger attack involving several missiles prompted no response. The conclusion seems obvious that the Saturday “attack” did not actually occur.
This strongly suggests that the crew that reported the attack was seeing what they were conditioned to see. It is noteworthy that despite the presence of several
ships in the immediate area as well
as additional regional sensors, only one ship, the Mason, ever reported attacks
and it was that ship that reported all three separate attacks. US
|USS Mason - Scenario Fulfillment?|
Finally, if the attacks were real and the Mason actually shot down one to several attacking missiles, the Navy would, without a doubt, have showered medals on the Captain and crew. You’ll recall that the Navy gave a medal to the crew member of the seized riverine boats who tried and failed to send a radio request for help. If they would give a medal for a trivial, failed action they most certainly would have showered medals all around for the first successful combat action in quite some time – not only a successful combat action but hugely successful if they actually shot down four of five attacking missiles! The conclusion is, again, obvious – there were no actual attacks.
It appears highly likely that the crew of the Mason behaved as the crew of the
did many years prior. They saw a scenario that they “wanted” or
were conditioned to see. That the fog of
war lead an overeager crew to see missiles where none existed is mildly
interesting but hardly shocking. This is
nothing more than a common human tendency of scenario fulfillment demonstrated
ad nauseum throughout history. No, the
more important aspect is that all of our vaunted technology utterly failed to
tell us what was (or, was not) actually happening. Despite this blatant failure of technology,
we remain firmly committed to placing our entire combat welfare in the hands of
technology and basing our entire military future in the hands of the Third
Offset Strategy which is based entirely on sensor technology – technology that
has been demonstrated repeatedly to be unreliable in application. Vincennes
I know that my analysis completely contradicts the official Navy story but, lacking any documentation from the Navy, the logic is compelling and inescapable.
(1)USNI News website, “CNO Richardson: USS Mason ‘Appears to Have Come Under Attack’”, Sam LaGrone,