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Pentagon Pledges to Respond in ‘Appropriate Manner’ After New Yemen Missile Attack on USS Mason

Guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG-87) on Sept. 10, 2016. US Navy Photo

Guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG-87) on Sept. 10, 2016. US Navy Photo

This post has been updated with an additional statement from Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson.

Houthi rebels fired two more cruise missiles at the guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG-87) on Wednesday and Pentagon officials are pledging a response, DoD spokesman Peter Cook said in a Wednesday statement.

“For the second time in four days, USS Mason responded to an incoming missile threat while conducting routine operations in international waters off the Red Sea coast of Yemen,” Cook said.
“Those who threaten our forces should know that U.S. commanders retain the right to defend their ships, and we will respond to this threat at the appropriate time and in the appropriate manner.”

Mason was operating in the strait of Bab el-Mandeb when two costal defense missiles were launched at the ship from the vicinity of southern city of Al Hudaydah at around 1800 local time (1100 EST), according to information from defense officials provided to USNI News.

The missile attack did not result in any damage to the ship or injuries to the crew, Cook said.

Mason used unspecified countermeasures following the launch of the cruise missiles. However, it’s unclear whether the missiles missed their target and hit the water because of actions by the ship’s crew or if the missiles failed on their own.

“USS Mason fired defensive salvos in response to at least one missile which did not hit the ship or caused any damage,” read a report from newswire Reuters.
“Indications are that the second salvo brought down an incoming missile, one U.S. official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.”

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson praised the actions of the crew in a statement provided to USNI News on Wednesday.

“The team on USS Mason demonstrated initiative and toughness as they defended themselves and others against these unfounded attacks over the weekend and again today. All Americans should be proud of them.” he said.
“These unjustified attacks are serious, but they will not deter us from our mission. We are trained and ready to defend ourselves and to respond quickly and decisively.”

The latest incident follows a separate attack on Sunday in which Mason had to defend itself from two missiles—believed to be Chinese-built C-802s (NATO reporting name CSS-N-8 Saccade) and provided to the Houthi rebels by Iran.

During Sunday’s attack the ship fired two SM-2s and an Evolved Seasparrow Missile (ESSM) to intercept the missiles launched from southern Yemen, USNI News reported on Tuesday. It’s not clear if Mason fired additional interceptors to counter the missiles from Yemen in Wednesday’s attack.

While the C-802s—based on the French Exocet anti-ship missile—are likely more than a decade old, they feature a powerful warhead capable of severely damaging the most sophisticated warship. A single air-launched Exocet sank the Royal Navy frigate HMS Sheffield during the Falklands War in 1982.

The havoc the warhead can inflict is evident in the damage on the UAE- operated HSV Swift, which earlier was attacked by what is likely a C-802 launched by Houthi rebels

HSV Swift following an attack by what is believed to be a C-802 Chinese-built missile.

HSV Swift following an attack by what is believed to be a C-802 Chinese-built missile.

Combined with the Sunday attack, Wednesday’s incident is evidence of how easily weapons having the power to sink a $2 billion U.S. warship have fallen into the hands of non-state actors, Eric Wertheim—naval analyst and author of U.S. Naval Institute’s Combat Fleets of the World—told USNI News on Wednesday.

“It shows how easily these missiles can get into the hands of anyone who wants them and that our ships have to be ready,” he said. “It highlights the danger to shipping from even the most disorganized groups.”

Until now, the most recent attack against a warship with a guided missile from a non-state actor was the 2006 strike on the Israeli corvette INS Hanit by an Iranian-made C-802 variant by Hezbollah.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if we see more of this,” Wertheim said.

Last week, the United States sent three warships—Mason, USS Nitze (DDG-94) and the afloat forward staging base USS Ponce (AFSB(I)-15)—as part of a presence mission off the southern coast of Yemen following the destruction of Swift.

The presence of the U.S. ships is in part to reassure commercial traffic that transits the strait that connects the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean—one of the busiest maritime traffic zones in the world.

The attacks come as the U.S. is evaluating its support for the Saudi-led coaltion that has been fighting the Iran-backed Houthis since last year. A coalition bombing of a funeral that killed 140 and injured more than 500 came ahead of the first attack against Mason.

The following is the complete Oct. 12 statements from DoD spokesman Peter Cook and CNO Adm. John Richardson.

Statement by Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook on USS Mason

For the second time in four days, USS Mason responded to an incoming missile threat while conducting routine operations in international waters off the Red Sea coast of Yemen. At about 6 p.m. local time today (11 a.m. EDT), the ship detected at least one missile that we assess originated from Houthi-controlled territory near Al Hudaydah, Yemen. The ship employed defensive countermeasures, and the missile did not reach USS Mason. There was no damage to the ship or its crew. USS Mason will continue its operations. Those who threaten our forces should know that U.S. commanders retain the right to defend their ships, and we will respond to this threat at the appropriate time and in the appropriate manner.

Statement from Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson:

“The US Navy remains on watch in the Red Sea and around the world to defend America from attack and to protect U.S. strategic interests. These unjustified attacks are serious, but they will not deter us from our mission. We are trained and ready to defend ourselves and to respond quickly and decisively.
The team on USS Mason demonstrated initiative and toughness as they defended themselves and others against these unfounded attacks over the weekend and again today. All Americans should be proud of them.”

  • Marauder 2048

    “we will respond to this threat at the appropriate time and in the appropriate manner”

    Translation: Obama probably won’t allow anything until after the election because it would undermine the “breakthrough” treaty with Iran.

    • bpuharic

      If the right had succeeded, Iran would be a nuclear power now

      • sferrin

        Difficult to do with no nuclear industrial base.

  • DaSaint

    I don’t think we’ve seen random yet. Nov 9th.

  • Ed L

    Where they at Condition 3? Does the Navy still do that? On the Oiler we would sometimes refuel in Condition 1A sort of like the Gators do. A repair party manned up an the weapons systems in a weapons warning tight mode. In reading other articles the ones shooting missiles at us are in a harbor cargo load area. Will it be the SEAL’s, Marines, Green Beanies? or Delta Force?

  • bpuharic

    Let’s do war crimes! The Houthis have these missiles next to a school and our right blows ‘Em away. The next day 300 dead kids are buried in rubble. Now 300M Arabs are outraged. The Houthis are celebrating. Our brain dead right reacted like the robots they are.

    OR we could act like Obama does…deliberately, professionally. Trust our military to develop a list of targets based on intelligence.

    Golly. Which should we choose…

    • Ron Snyder

      Obama, professional? Please.

    • Danny Lee Cosat

      “Targets based on intelligence.” What intelligence? The rose colored Obama approved intelligence?

    • Tyler Dresden

      Thanks for giving us an overstated example of the p***y in chief

    • sferrin

      Damn son, you’re brain is swimming in Kool-Aid isn’t it?

  • bpuharic

    What does the nuke deal have to do with anything

    • Jayson DeBrune

      Obama will not do anything for fear of alienating Iran and thus scuttling the nuclear deal. This is what those of us who opposed the deal predicted–that it would become a cover for Iranian aggression that the U.S. could not stop because the mullahs could always blackmail us with threats of restarting their nuclear program.

    • Danny Lewis

      Are you really that naive. It has given Iran the wherewithal to do whatever it pleases. Don’t forget the $150,000,000,000.00 they received in the dead of night by the slight of hand parlor trick of the Obama Admin. The nuke deal opened a Pandora’s box of unknown capabilities for the Iranians to utilize. You’d better hope and pray that any missle attacks on our Navy are stopped before they hit one, because this administration won’t retaliate as it should, but will probably “condemn” the attack instead.

  • Danny Lee Cosat

    An appropriate response? Give us some time! We’re getting ready to convene a committee to think about considering the possibility of possibly crafting of a strongly worded letter of condemnation!

    BTW, Trump said P***Y! Let’s not lose track of the pressing issues of the day!

    • Kalte_Lokshen

      The WH must be ‘very concerned’.

    • Cheech

      Or you could launch targeted attacks on costal radar sites. Which is what the US did…

      • Danny Lee Cosat

        Right on!
        An appropriate response! Much to my surprise!

  • Chief Bo

    Notice the “fly-by” media has not said anything about this??

    • Kev789

      Not sure what you mean, but it’s in the New York Times and Washington Post.

  • 1coolguy

    I’m suspect this ship’s captain has his hands tied behind his back by the Obama people. Reagan would have bombed the H out of these people after the FIRST attack: There wouldn’t have been a second attack.
    And BTW, it’s not the Houthi’s, it is Iran. Does anyone believe a backwards rebel grou- could have CRUISE MISSILES??? Puleeeze……………..Another Obama directive: DO NOT BLAME THE IRANIANS.

  • Kalte_Lokshen

    In diplomatic parlance, ‘respond in Appropriate Manner at the appropriate time’ means ‘we do not intend to respond but we want our people to think that we will’.
    When your opponent is the initiator, the only ‘appropriate time’ is NOW and the only ‘appropriate place’ is where it hurts him most.

  • Western

    Embarrassing. If I were a Senator or Congressman, there is no reason for me to approve any future military funding bill. If you have no use for the tools you have been provided, then those funds can be better spent building a hospital or paving a street.

  • The Plague

    Houthi peasants employing ASCM that requires long-range radar for targeting? And we know the first two bogeys were fired from long range, that’s why long-range SM-2’s were expended on them. Which means whoever fired the ASCMs had to use either airborne radar or over-the-horizon radar for initial cuing over that long range. Given the Exocet-derived pedigree of the C-802, airborne radar would be more likely. So all that stuff in the expert hands of Houthi peasants, right?

    Mind you, it is also weird that within a few days of the CNO deleting “A2/AD” from the Navy’s vocabulary, all of a sudden there is this A2/AD-type of incident. You can almost see the Third Offset CSBA-gang running around, shaking heads and wringing hands : “See that ?! See that ?! I told you so !!!!”. As though somebody had just set out to teach the Navy a lesson. But the Navy did a good job here.

    • El_Sid

      whoever fired the ASCMs had to use either airborne radar or over-the-horizon radar for initial cuing over that long range.

      Or a guy with binoculars and a phone.

      • The Plague

        Butt out, Forrest Gump.

  • Ken N

    Speculate much??

    • bsetrader

      Speculate? How many Shiite governments are capable of providing the Shiite Houthi militia with Iran’s Noor missile, a copy of the Chinese C-802? Hint: Who supplied Hezbollah with its Noor missiles in the attack on the INS Hanit, an Israeli Saar V class missile corvette?

      • Ken N

        he said the attack on the Mason was ordered by Iran…so yeah that’s speculation…

  • RobM1981

    What if an LCS was in the same situation? Could it have defended itself so well?

    Obviously it doesn’t have the same defensive capabilities, and many of us have repeatedly (since the design was finalized) complained about the weak air and missile defense. OTOH, the LCS is clearly much stealthier than a DDG. Would/could this have factored into the equation?

    • sferrin

      Could a Perry? Nope. (See the Stark incident.)

  • Ruckweiler

    With what? A sharp note of protest?

  • Bill

    It’s reported that USS Nitze fired Tomahawks at radar installations. That would seem to be an ideal role for the Zumwalt with her 6 inch guns.

  • bsetrader

    Iran is heating up the proxy wars with “the little and great Satan.” The presidential election is sooooo close now…if the US media establishment and the Davoisie can only stay in denial a little longer…

  • j James

    It’s reminiscent of Clinton and the USS Cole in October of 2000

  • old guy

    I’m writing an apology for our nasty ship getting in the way of their sightseeing missile.

  • old guy

    During the Iraq war, the fifth fleet was in the Gulf. Saddam sent my friend, who commanded the 5th, a request for the rules of engagement for his aircraft. The response was almost as good as Gen. Mcauliffe’s at Bastogne. It was, “YOU FLY, YOU DIE.” Then he ordered Gun’s Free. End of Saddam’s Air Force, saving thousands of lives in South Iraq.