Home » Budget Industry » Admiral: Attacks Like Those on USS Mason Will Become More Common

Admiral: Attacks Like Those on USS Mason Will Become More Common

USS Mason (DDG-87) pulls into the Port of Djibouti escorted by Coastal Riverine Squadron 8 Sea Ark patrol boats on July 23, 2016. US Navy Photo

USS Mason (DDG-87) pulls into the Port of Djibouti escorted by Coastal Riverine Squadron 8 Sea Ark patrol boats on July 23, 2016. US Navy Photo

The Navy should prepare for a future operating environment where anti-ship weapons propagate globally and attacks such as the recent ones against guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG-87) are more commonplace, one the service’s top budget officials said.

Vice Adm. Joseph Mulloy, deputy chief of naval operations for integration of capabilities and resources, said at the Naval Submarine League’s annual conference Wednesday that the service is not only focused on the current threats posed by potential adversaries such as Russia, Iran and North Korea, but also potential threats down the road if these countries sell their weapons to third-world countries and non-state actors.

“USS Mason down there off the coast of Yemen – we can’t prove anything right now, but I guarantee that Yemen by itself is not going to produce a Silkworm missile, a bunch of different radars – it just isn’t going to happen in a third-world country,” Mulloy said.
“It’s coming from somewhere, and the propagation of the selling of this stuff – I mean Iran is trying to get more advanced stuff from Russia and they’re selling it on the secondary market. So what is amazing is, in the next few years, everywhere the Navy goes, if you’re not in a submarine, you better watch out because every crappy country will be able to launch high-speed missiles at you and the propagation of that is going to be amazing.

“What it indicates is, if you want to be there initially to check what’s going on, you better either have a fabulous set of radar and missiles, or you better be a submarine and be able to watch what’s going on,” he said.

Over the course of a week this month, Mason operating near the Bab el-Mandeb strait came under attack at least on two separate occasions from guided anti-ship cruise missiles that were widely believed to be provided to Houthi rebels by Iranian forces.

Specifically, naval analysts have told USNI News the missiles are likely Chinese-built C-802 (NATO reporting name CSS-N-8 Saccade) missiles based on the widely exported French Exocet missile.The attacks are the first time a U.S. warship has fired SM-2 missiles to ward off the attack from an anti-ship cruise missile threat. Following a retaliation strike by the U.S. after the second attack, Houthi forces are also suspected to have attacked Mason a third time. The Navy is still studying radar tracks to determine if the radar tracks to which the crew reacted were actually missile threats.

Destroyers Mason, Nitze 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 and the Red Sea following an attack on the UAE operated HSV Swift in which Houthi rebels claimed responsibility.

Mulloy’s comments came as he was setting the scene for Navy budget decisions, particularly the need to fully fund the Columbia-class (Ohio Replacement) ballistic missile submarine so the first boat is ready for its scheduled 2031 patrol, as well as the need to continue driving cost out of the already ahead-of-schedule and below-cost Virginia-class attack submarine program. The service is looking for ways to insert an additional attack sub into the Fiscal Year 2021 budget to help blunt the impact of an SSN shortfall throughout the 2020s and 2030s.

Combatant commanders already request more attack boats than are available, and the upcoming dip below the required 48 SSNs will only make it harder to meet these operational needs. Additional requirements for submarines if surface ships face a greater cruise missile threat – as Mulloy suggested – would only further complicate the ability for the Navy to provide enough submarine presence around the globe.

  • bill phelps

    should not a LCS be operation off the coast rather than a DD?

    • Niki Ptt

      A LCS to counter anti-ship guided missiles? Errrrr… better keep the Aegis DDs up front.

      • Marjus Plaku

        yeah seriously, all 2 people on the LCS weapons center might not react in time with their 1 or 2 systems available.

        • Lazarus

          SeaRAM is pretty effective as a counter-ASCM system.

          • Kev789

            But only one level deep instead of electronic counter measures, sm2, essm, CIWS, nulka, chaff.

          • Niki Ptt

            SeaRAM? OK, 11 missiles and then you’re out. If it works on the same pattern as an AEGIS system, in real not-a-drill conditions, that means two missiles launched for each incoming Vampire… So all they need is 7 missiles to sink a 350M$ piece of over-engineering.

          • Lazarus

            $350m is about as cheap a warship as can be purchased by the US. An AEGIS frigate is just too expensive and cannot be built in needed numbers. You are citing simple numbers out of operational conditions. What about soft kill? What about malfunctioning missiles? LCS is as well equipped as the retiring FFG’s were in terms of anti-missile capability when the Perry’s left service.

          • Niki Ptt

            Soft kill capabilities on LCSs? 12 chaff/flare launchers, that’s it, and I wouldn’t rely on them against an ASCM, it’s kind of a “try your luck” system for me.

            As for malfunctioning missiles, go and tell that to a LCS sailor: “Yeah, basically, we’re fucked but, who knows? Maybe this last missile we couldn’t shoot down will malfunction…” “Join the Navy they said.”
            And concerning the Perry’s, they had (before being refitted) up to 40 SM-1 missiles in the hold, with longer legs than the eleven RAMs of a LCS. OK, they were considered outdated in 2003, but when you compare the 3900 tons of a Freedom to the 4100 tons of a FFG, and then the weaponry they both carry, even without considering the progress made in the armament domain, well, there’s kind of a problem with the LCS equipment.

            These boats were simply not made to venture in the littoral of an ASCM-equipped country like Iran, Yemen or China. I’m not criticizing the platform, but the missions the Admiralty seems to want the LCS to fulfill. Deploy them off the coast of Somalia, OK; assign them to Coast Guard duty, OK (they compare quite well to the NSCs); use them as MCM ships (a lot of people forget that part of the program), OK. Patrolling in the Strait of Ormuz, South China Sea or off the coast of Yemen, nope.

          • DaSaint

            The 40 SM1s were useless if the notorious single arm launcher failed. The 76mm had poor firing arcs. The class had a single gas turbine and shaft, inherently vulnerable ergo the 2 drop down pods.

            We all fell in love with the Perrys because and only because they didn’t sink as expected when hit by those Exocets or when one hit a mine. Let’s keep things real.

    • PolicyWonk

      Ideally, yes (by virtue of its designation). But if you look at what LCS was “designed” for (according to former CNO Adm Jonathan Greenert, LCS was “never intended to venture into the littorals to engage in combat”), then the answer is a resounding “no”.

      LCS was: never intended to carry weapons of significance; designed (despite its designation) to be little more than a hyper expensive utility ship; and has zero resemblance to the original “street fighter” concept for which it was funded.

      According to the navy’s own IG, LCS “is unlikely to survive the missions combat commanders are likely to assign it…”.

      • Lazarus

        The IG is incorrect. LCS is equipped with SeaRAM which is capable of multiple engagements against ASCM’s. LCS is also equipped with limited passive engagement systems. Finally, the modular space in LCS can be configured to support additional weapons as required. LCS is already sked to get the Hellfire missile in early 2017,

        • PolicyWonk


          First, you’ll have to excuse me if I take the US Navy’s Inspector General’s assessment more seriously than yours.

          The modular space is good only to a point.

          According to the naval weapons experts who reviewed what can be done with the deceitfully designated “littoral combat ship” on Breaking Defense – the options for up-arming or protecting LCS are extremely limited without seriously affecting performance. This same assessment also comes from OMB and DOT&E.

          Next – Hellfire? While a useful weapon for small applications, you don’t see them being deployed on a Burke. Arming the so-called LCS with Hellfire has more to do with the fact that the navy got caught with its pants down on a failed collection of concepts, a lousy pair of designs, and one massive waste of taxpayer money (the LCS program, however, earns kudos as an outstanding corporate welfare program).

          This is little more that a desperate attempt to give an admirals water-skiing barge some kind of armament with a range that reaches further than the woefully inadequate/pitiful 57mm gun (not a very high bar to meet) that failed so miserably in Canadian testing.

          • Lazarus

            The Navy IG doesn’t have much in the way of survivability experts. LCS is NOT a DDG 51. Not every ship in the fleet can be a “floating fortress.” Breaking defense is hardly an expert on survivability either. OMB does not do technical assessments. DOT&E is a collection of physics PhD’s who are usually uninformed as to what constitutes an “operational” test. They are great at evaluating individual pieces of equipment, but none of them would remotely qualify as tactical action officers on any of my ships. Finally, if you start with, “the bad Admirals and evil corporate bad guys forced LCS…..” ,then you loose all credibility,

  • The Plague

    Translation : the surface fleet is expected to take a back seat to the submarine fleet. And it is further expected to like it. Attacks will continue until morale improves.

  • John Locke

    “Look at that bad-a$$ sub!” said no one. On the other hand Project 941 is/was pretty impressive if only in size.

  • Garrett ‘Ed’ Bates

    This OS2 would gladly reenlist in the Navy to assist with what will eventually happen. Of course due to my age and health conditions I would need a waiver, however since the VA health system has been providing my health care I would think a waiver should be able to obtain.

  • gro

    If we look at ‘history’ and that part of the world, the ONLY thing these troglodytes understand is swift retaliation.
    And, as Russia found out in Afghanistan that doesn’t always work.
    Forget Carter BUT the ‘hostages’ were released when RR came aboard and had ‘threatened’ to make a parking lot out of Iran…..
    (And just to prove how ‘tough’ we were we dispatched Grenada after the Beirut incident)
    BUT RR ‘blew it’ in regards to the Marine Barracks, we had at least the New Jersey off shore- we should have given a ‘warning’ that the hillside would be removed as long as the ‘snipers’ were shooting at the rescuers.
    The recent USN ‘hostage situation’ was ‘resolved’ with an ‘apology’ to Iran….

    As an ‘afterthought’ how many others in this forum think it is considered an ‘insult’ by our friends/enemies/whatever around the world to be first subjected to a Woman then a failed Presidential candidates lecturing?

    This war with the peace loving Mid Easterners has been going on without any retaliation for far to long. Am sure the ‘rebels’ are reassured they are doing the ‘right thing’ when NONE of their citizenry, here and abroad are not ‘shouting from the rooftops’ that this crap has got to end.

    In my time, silence was considered what was being done was ‘ok’……

  • awbilinski

    Hmmm. Is the LCS a failed project due to lack of sufficient firepower, or worse, inferior design? This seems so per PolicyWonk and inferentially backed up by Adm. Mulloy’s pitch for subs vs surface ships as a solution. Is this a very bad thing waiting to happen, i.e. when we send a littoral combat ship into a littoral only to see it get chopped to pieces?

  • olesalt

    Sorry to say this but definitely USN understrength. Davy Jones will turn in his grave to know this dilemma faced by the Navy.

    • John Locke

      understrength compared to what?
      Please provide comparisons

  • Western

    It would happen less frequently if after the “next” attack, our Navy obliterated every military vessel afloat in Iran’s Bandar-e Abbas harbor. For Mahan sake, when the bully takes a swing at you, beat him into the ground. Stop risking the lives of Americans with “measured” defense actions. Do your job.

    • John Locke

      That might work for a while (Praying Mantis) but even with the threat of prison or the death penalty there are still criminals.

  • John B. Morgen

    Our major warships need additional CIWS units be installed, in order to meet the SSM threat at a much better position—we shouldn’t make anymore delays for such implementation for additional armaments. It is the time to rearmed our warships; including, supply ships because operating inside the Red Sea or regional seas that nearby have been proclaimed by hostile forces as opened seasons upon our warships.