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Updated: USS Nitze Destroys 3 Houthi Controlled Radar Sites in Retaliatory Strike

A Tomahawk Land Attack Missile Launched from USS Nitze late Wednesday night. US Navy Image

A Tomahawk Land Attack Missile Launched from USS Nitze late Wednesday night. US Navy Image

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

A Navy guided missile destroyer launched an attack against three radar sites in Yemen with Tomahawk cruise missiles in response to recent attacks on U.S. ships in the region, the Pentagon announced late Wednesday.

USS Nitze (DDG-94) launched an unknown number of the Tomahawks against the installations along the Red Sea and north of the strait of Bab el-Mandeb around 4 a.m. local time on Thursday (about 9 p.m. Wednesday EST).

“Initial assessments indicate that all three targets were destroyed,” read a statement from a U.S. defense official issued to the press late Wednesday.
“These radars were active during previous attacks and attempted attacks on ships in the Red Sea, including last week’s attack on the USA-flagged vessel “Swift-2″, and during attempted attacks on USS Mason and other ships as recently as today.”

Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook described the attack as, “limited self-defense strikes were conducted to protect our personnel, our ships, and our freedom of navigation in this important maritime passageway,” that were authorized by President Barrack Obama on the recommendation of Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford.

“The United States will respond to any further threat to our ships and commercial traffic, as appropriate, and will continue to maintain our freedom of navigation in the Red Sea, the Bab el-Mandeb, and elsewhere around the world,” Cook said in the statement.

Iran-backed Houthi forces have threatened attacks against ships in their “territorial waters,” according to Iranian state press.

Newswire Reuters quoted a U.S. official who said, “the areas in Yemen where the radar were located as near Ras Isa, north of Mukha and near Khoka. “Shipping sources told Reuters sites were hit in the Dhubab district of Taiz province, a remote area overlooking the Bab al-Mandab [strait] known for fishing and smuggling,” wrote the wire.

Burke Class guided-missile destroyer USS Nitze (DDG-94) on June 24, 2016. US Navy Photo

Arliegh Burke class guided-missile destroyer USS Nitze (DDG-94) on June 24, 2016. US Navy Photo

The U.S. retaliatory strikes come as the guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG-87) fended off two sets of anti-ship cruise missile attacks over the last week – the most recent occurring on Wednesday.

In at least one encounter on Sunday, Mason fired three missiles to protect the ship and its crew from attack.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson compared the mission of Mason and Nitze to the early roles of the U.S. Navy during a speech on the service’s 241st birthday in Mechanicsburg, Pa.

“You had USS Mason, USS Nitze in a geographic choke point in the Bab el-Mandeb protecting freedom of navigation and our national interests,” he said.
“After defending themselves against a couple of coastal defense cruise missiles shots this weekend and — then again yesterday – [U.S. leadership] decided enough was enough and they launched a five missile strike into Yemen to take out the radars that controlled those cruise missiles.”

In a Wednesday statement, Richardson praised Mason’s crew.

“The team on USS Mason demonstrated initiative and toughness as they defended themselves and others against these unfounded attacks over the weekend and again [Wednesday],” he said.
“All Americans should be proud of them.”

Nitze, Mason and the afloat forward staging base USS Ponce (AFSB(I)-15) have been operating off the coast of Yemen in the vicinity of Bab el-Mandeb following the attack on the high speed logistics vessel HSV Swift in which rebels used what is widely believed to be a Chinese built C-802 anti-ship missile to severely damage the ship earlier this month.

The following is the complete Oct. 12, 2016 statement from Peter Cook on the strikes.

Early this morning local time, the U.S. military struck three radar sites in Houthi-controlled territory on Yemen’s Red Sea coast. Initial assessments show the sites were destroyed. The strikes — authorized by President Obama at the recommendation of Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Joseph Dunford — targeted radar sites involved in the recent missile launches threatening USS Mason and other vessels operating in international waters in the Red Sea and the Bab al-Mandeb. These limited self-defense strikes were conducted to protect our personnel, our ships, and our freedom of navigation in this important maritime passageway. The United States will respond to any further threat to our ships and commercial traffic, as appropriate, and will continue to maintain our freedom of navigation in the Red Sea, the Bab al-Mandeb, and elsewhere around the world.

 

  • Ed L

    A tomahawk! That is one way to ruin there day.

    • muzzleloader

      So would a typhoon.

  • sferrin

    Nice to see Obama’s deal with Iran is paying off.

    • Ken N

      Don’t be so ignorant. Nobody in their right mind expected Iran to all of a sudden behave on the international stage after the nuke deal. It was implemented for one reason..to disable Iran’s nuke weapons program without resorting to a very messy and costly US military intervention. And all indications are Iran is complying with the terms of the deal. Get over it already.

      • On Dre

        Agreed. We cant pretend the other actor pouring gas on this fire, SA, is some rational balanced entity.

      • sferrin

        “Nobody in their right mind expected Iran to all of a sudden behave on the international stage after the nuke deal.”

        Maybe his Highness shouldn’t have pitched it as such then. Of course if he’d actually been honest about it he wouldn’t have been able to fool the plebes.

      • 1coolguy

        Not ignorant, honest.

      • Andre

        Who expected Teheran to behave in the first place?

        Iranian clerics and generals have paid close attention to the following developments over the years:

        1. The US Congress’ inability to form a consensus on striking an agreement to end North Korea’s nuclear weapons program in the 1990s
        2. Pakistan becoming a nuclear power in the late 1990s without any meaningful Western response
        2. North Korea becoming a nuclear power in the 2000s despite intense economic and diplomatic pressure
        3. Libya agreeing to end its nuclear weapons program in 2003 in return for normal relations and then being subject to a coup d’état in 2011 by the very same Western powers
        4. Russia violating the Budapest Agreement by invading and annexing part of Ukraine in 2014
        5. Pakistan continuing to upgrade and expand its nuclear arsenal without any Western intervention, despite the significant potential for Pakistani warheads to be seized and used by rogue local commanders and Islamist terrorist groups

        The Iranians are also well aware that:

        1. A US air campaign would not set back Iran’s nuclear weapons program by more than 5 years and would cause Teheran to intensify its efforts
        2. A successful US disarmament campaign would require occupation of Iran by ground forces which the American public would not countenance

        Considering the situation from an Iranian perspective, why would they negotiate and act in good faith when:

        1. The JCPOA is neither an executive agreement nor a ratified treaty
        2. Congress and/or a future US administration could abrogate the JCPOA
        3. The Agreement provides no guarantees as to ending US efforts to overthrow the Iranian government
        4. Israel remains a threat

    • Spencer Whitson

      I actually see this as proof that it is. You have to understand that Iran is not a monolithic structure. There are significant disagreements internally, especially between the moderates currently in power and the conservatives, including the IRGC. These conservatives and the IRGC hate this nuke deal and would do anything to kill it. The IRGC especially is a military force without oversight by the main government. Lets say for some reason Iran and the US came into conflict- do you think the government would continue to honor the nuke deal? Support for keeping it would probably dry up.

      And so we have this situation. The missiles in question were Iranian built. Probably provided to the rebels for this purpose, as Iran supports these rebels. However, these missiles could not have possibly caused any damage. They were not volleyed at once. Instead, they were fired one by one. There was an hour between the first and second missile launch. Four days later, the third launch. They did not have the mass of volley necessary to penetrate Aegis. There was no way a tactical goal could have been achieved. However, no attack is meaningless. The goals were not tactical, but strategic.

      I would argue that the conservatives inside Iran’s government, most likely the IRGC, were the instigators of this incident, in an attempt to try and drag the US into conflict against the Houthis, who Iran supports. Naturally, this would eventually lead to a confrontation between the two countries- not necessarily on the battlefield, but as a proxy war, with tensions nonetheless rising. With such tensions, would the moderates in Iran’s government support the nuke deal any longer? Not very likely.

      Thus, the US’s measured response of simply destroying the radars was a smart choice. It helps to avoid future attacks, prevents the US from seeming overly weak or overly harsh, while at the same time avoiding the escalation that was so clearly intended from this.

      In short, this is a complicated issue, one that relatively black-and-white viewpoints do not match.

  • JoeT

    It may be a good time to examine the vulnerability of our MSC logistic force vessels which have no installed point defense systems. The USN MSC now operates 8 EPF’s (Expeditionary Platform Fast) vessels. These are basically civilian fast ferries like the HSV-2 Swift which was destroyed by a Houthi missile. They are aluminum hull, unarmored, unarmed vessels which can carry up to 300 troops. Our T-AO’s, T-AOE’s, and T-AKE’s which operate in support and in close proximity of Naval forces are virtually defenseless against a missile/air/surface/subsurface attack. UK RFA logistic ships at least have point defense systems. We could be setting ourselves up for a disaster.

  • Bailey Zhang

    Now Chinese are laughing SM-2 and ESSM can’t really hit C802, saying if C802 can’t be intercepted, YJ12 and YJ18 will be even more unstoppable…. I meant they are kinda saying the truth

    • Ken N

      I’m not sure what your trying to say. But the fact is 4 Chinese made ASM’s were fired at a US destroyer and none even got close. That suggests 2 things..all 4 were defeated by the US Navy and/or Chinese ASM’s are garbage and are more likely to impact the water than actually making it to the target.

    • sferrin

      On what planet? How does “enemy antiship missiles not hitting our ship” equate to “we can’t hit missiles”?

  • MA

    Well you kind of had to figure that was coming

  • Marauder 2048

    Does nothing to eliminate the spotters on skiffs or the other launchers or the crews that man them.

    • sferrin

      If it were me I’d fire up that laser on the Ponce and BBQ me some spotters.

    • Matt

      And it’s not proportianate at all. They tried to kill the crew of our destroyer, 380 officers and enlisted. How many did we kill? Probably 5? Maybe? This is a disgracefully weak reaction that shows Obama’s pu##y off to the enemy once again.

  • DaSaint

    This was predictable. A couple days for targeting, possibly some recon by SF and voila! Tomahawk breakfast!
    I do agree that at a minimum, with non-state actors having access to anti-ship missiles, all combatants and USN and MSC auxiliaries should have some form of point defense system. At least 1 Phalanx CIWS if not 2, or a combination of Phalanx and SeaRAM. That should form a baseline defensive system, to which further hard-kill and soft-kill systems can be added as necessary depending on threat environment.
    Even the Israelis have shown years ago that smaller PC type combatants can be armed with a Phalanx as a primary defensive system, as opposed to a typical main gun.

    • Ed L

      I with you on that. I remember before the stupids took the regular navy off the oilers and supply ships. We had a slick 32, chaff, pair of 3″50′ sea sparrow, 4 fifties and a few M-60’s on that AOE. Now our support ships are helpless. Anyone for naval gun crews to run defense systems ?

  • 1coolguy

    Houthi? Try Iranian, Obama’s buddies.

  • MarlineSpikeMate

    The Swift was NOT U.S. Flagged… but rather UAE…
    If it were U.S. flagged, you damn sure better believe a more serious response would have been in order.

  • RobM1981

    It would have been more impressive to see the Mason deliver the blow as a counter-strike, while the SSM’s were inbound.

    Predictability does not engender fear, or even respect.

  • Marjus Plaku

    Man, the Burke’ really are quite the impressive ship! TRUE anti-aircraft, anti-cruise missile, anti-ballistic missile, land attack, anti-submarine, anti-ship. HOT DAMN!

    If we keep testing and refining, deploying and employing, developing and testing and refining and deploying and employing etc… and we keep training and training and training our people the a single US major surface combatant is then a HUGE and very VERY lethal/versatile/useful platform/asset.

  • Pablo Jay

    I don`t see the allure of President Obama getting into a hurry to drag the US Military into another pointless war in Yemen, let the Saudi`s deal with it. The military response was perfect.
    Lets not be in a hurry to stretch the Military further with a higher Ops tempo than they already have.

  • Centaurus

    Yeah, it’s working really well.