Home » Budget Industry » Destroyer that Protected U.S. Ships From Houthi Cruise Missiles Recognized as Best Atlantic Fleet Ship

Destroyer that Protected U.S. Ships From Houthi Cruise Missiles Recognized as Best Atlantic Fleet Ship

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

USS Mason (DDG-87), the ship that warded off multiple cruise missile attacks last year to protect U.S. ships in the Red Sea, was recognized as the best ship in the U.S. Atlantic fleet in 2016, according to a Tuesday release from Naval Surface Force Atlantic.

On Tuesday, the crew of Mason was recognized as the top ship with the presentation the Battenberg Cup by Naval Surface Force Atlantic commander Rear Adm. Jesse Wilson Jr. during a ceremony on the ship.

“I could not be more proud of Mason sailors,” Cmdr. Stephen Aldridge, the ship’s commanding officer, said in a Navy news release.
“It was truly a team effort from our inspection and survey in January, all the way through a tremendously successful deployment which concluded in December.”

While the ship was recognized for the entire deployment, the citation singled out a string of incidents in the vicinity of the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait in which the destroyer defended warships, including the now-decommissioned Afloat Forward Staging Base USS Ponce (AFSB(I)-15) and the guided-missile destroyer USS Nitze (DDG-94), from multiple attacks from cruise missiles fired from the Yemeni coast.

Mason successfully defended itself, three other U.S. warships, and multiple
U.S.-flagged merchant vessels during missile attacks in the Red Sea. Mason employed Standard Missile (SM-2) defensive interceptors and is the only warship in U.S. naval history to successfully employ the Evolved SeaSparrow Missile (ESSM) while under attack,” reads the statement. “Mason’s actions protected 1,000 U.S. sailors on the warships and countless more mariners in merchant vessels. Many of Mason’s tactical operating procedures and lessons learned across the attacks are now being used to increase combat readiness and toughness across the force.”

The cruise missiles were fired by Houthi separatists in Yemen and likely supplied by Iran.

In addition to the encounters, “Mason conducted an extraordinary amount of operations and events, traveling approximately 64,000 nautical miles in the Atlantic Ocean; Mediterranean Sea; Celtic Sea; Red Sea; Arabian Gulf; Gulf of Oman; and Indian Ocean. On deployment, Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 47, Combat Element 3, conducted almost-daily flight operations with 348 sorties resulting in nearly 1,000 hours of flight time,” read that statement.

Mason also participated in a Great Green Fleet biofuel demonstration with the Italian Navy oiler ITS Etna (A 5326).

USS Mason (DDG-87) fires an SM-2 during a March 2016 exercise. US Navy Image

The Battenberg Cup is named for former Royal Navy First Sea Lord Prince Louis of Battenberg, then-commodore of the Royal Navy’s 2nd Cruiser Squadron, who created the cup to be awarded to the winner of a U.S.-U.K. Navy rowing competition.

The cup went down with battleship USS West Virginia (BB-47) in the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor and was later recovered. In 1977, “the cup was refinished and the competition resumed amongst more than 100 American surface ships, aircraft carriers, and submarines that make up the Atlantic Fleet. Mason is only the fifth destroyer in the last 111 years to receive the award,” read the statement.

“Bravo Zulu to all of you for your remarkable accomplishments,” SURFLANT commander Wilson said in a statement.


  • Duane

    With all the negativity generated by the collisions of the Fizt and McCain, it’s good to have a good story to tell. The after action analysis of the Mason actions should be invaluable to other ship crews.

  • Jon

    *cough* clouds.

  • Patrick Bechet

    Amazing that after all this time there is still no official account of exactly what happened- specifically which of Mason’s missiles, if any, actually hit any of the SSMs? Everything has been vague, even this piece talks about “defending” other ships, which could be with missile (kinetic) hits or non-kinetic ECM, chaff or decoys. Why is the USN so reluctant to give out details, afterall they must know what happened, the whole engagement is recorded by the Aegis system. In Desert Storm we got a second by second description of HMS Glostershire’s downing of a Silkworm with a Sea Dart and we have good details of the USS Wainwright’s attempt to shoot down two Iranian F-4s with SM-2s in 1988. This is like the USS Jack Williams and USS Gary’s alleged attack by Silkwoms in 1988, lots of vague and incomplete information which could lead one to doubt what happened…. Oh and why did Nitze need to be protected?

    • Rob C.

      Because they don’t want potential enemies knowing the Burke’s full capacities. It’s old design for sure, but the technological marvels of it’s weapons and improved sensors since then are only superficially known. Frankly, i agree with the old WW2 saying “Keep it Secret, Keep it Safe” until you got to.

      • Rob C.

        Also, there may have been things simply can’t talking about WHAT they were escorting as well. (I forgot say that in the original post. Sorry)

        • Patrick Bechet

          I’m all for operational security, but what capacity information do you reveal by saying “one SM-2 hit the SSM, another missed and the debris was hit by an ESSM”? I’m thinking either it was a sperious target (unlikley) or the SM-2s and ESSM missed and the SSMs were decoyed by the Nkula decoys or chaff. In other words the Navy doesnt want to be embarrassed by what really happened. Lastly, 1988 was the height of the Cold War yet we got oodles of details on Operation Praying Mantis, including film coverage of Strauss and Jack Williams launching SM-1s, Williams firing chaff, Simpson launchig SM-1s and engaging with her 76mm etc. I don’t see what is different today…

          • Duane

            No weapon system ever operates perfectly, which is why all effective defensive systems are multi-layered. There is nothing good that can come from releasing after-action analyses to our enemies. The only important thing to report is that the Mason successfully fended off the attack by very capable Chinese C-802 ASCMs, of the very type the Chinese would deploy against our ships in the Western Pacific.

            Whaddya wanta bet that the entire attack was purposely ordered by the Chinese for the express purpose of testing the performance of their C-802s vs. our Arleigh Burke DDGs and their air defense systems? What better way to colllect actual warshot data than with the deniability by the Chinese who simply order their proxies to do it for them?

            So why would we add icing to their cake by deliberately releasing detailed after action data?

  • Hooray

  • Rob C.

    I’m glad the ship is being rewarded for it’s active defense of it’s charges during escort mission. I think she would end up getting it because she likely one few of handful of ships that’s actually used it’s weapon systems in action in years when it comes to air defense. Not like there terribly alot of combat on the high seas these days! Bravo to them!

  • old guy


  • Duane

    Did you even bother to read the post on which you’re commenting? Geesh, apparently not.

    Rule no. 1 in comment columns – read the damned post before you comment.

    The Navy itself officiallly says it was a cruise missile attack that the USS Mason defended.

    As to the identity of the cruise missiles fired by the Houthis last year:

    The Mason responded to a salvo of ASCMs that appeared the same as the C-802 that hit a UAE-flagged vessel, the HSV Swift, just a few days earlier. It’s likely that a forensic examination of the missile that hit the Swift revealed its origin, as usually is the case (either through surviving markings on missile parts, or materials analysis, etc). The C-802 is a Chinese designed missile they export, while the Houthis have no homegrown capability to develop their own ASCMs … they’re just a rag-tag separatist group.

    Per a post published here on USNI a year ago:

    “While U.S. sources haven’t confirmed the type of missiles, open source naval analyst and retired Navy Capt. Chris Carlson told USNI News on Monday the damage on Swift appears to be from the warhead used in a Chinese-built C-802 anti-ship missile (NATO reporting name CSS-N-8 Saccade). The C-802 is based on Cold War-era French technology.”

    • Murray

      I saw a report that the missiles fired by the Houthis may have been “looted” from Republic of Yemen naval arsenals. I note that Yemen did have two mobile SS-3-Styx batteries for Coast Defence (Source Jane’s Fighting Ships).

      • Duane

        How the Chinese missiles got to the Houthis seems a bit cloudy … but given how convenient it is to the Chinese to have some rascally Middle Easterners somehow run an operational test of their missile against an American target so that they can see what the American DDG can do, I would be extremely skeptical of any stories about “theft” of such missiles, launchers, fire control systems, technicians, and operators of a fully functional anti ship cruise missile system. It’s not like an AK-47 that any child can operate, after all.

        • Niki Ptt

          Nothing cloudy here. Iran bought a few years ago a batch of C-802 from China, and then proceeded to build their own version, the Noor. Iran is the biggest supporter of the Houthis.

          By the way, the fact that Mason’s weapons system fended off a C-802 attack is of little importance, since in China these missiles are being phased out beginning 2015 by the supersonic YJ-12.

          • Duane

            Supersonic cruise missiles are extremely overrated …. they’re actually easier to sense, target, and destroy than wave hugging subsonics, which are very difficult to sense, target, and destroy. Supersonics cannot wave hug (cannot maneuver supersonic at wave heigh), meaning they fly relatively high and so they’re easy peasy to sense and track. Radar travels millions of times faster than supersonic, and supersonic anti-ASCMs easily take out supersonic ASCMs.

          • Niki Ptt

            Wouldn’t be so sure about that… The BrahMos for example can skim at 5m above sea level, while being capable of Mach 2+.
            As for anti-ASCMs easily taking out supersonic ASCMs, I’ll leave you to that illusion. In test conditions (not to say rigged conditions) for example, the PAAMS/Aster 30 combination we use in the French Navy is capable of one-shot-one-kill easily. In real conditions against a supersonic ASCM, it might take 2 to 3 Aster to take out a single missile, and we’ll realize our fancy VLS can empty really fucking too fast…

          • Duane

            No – the BrahMos does NOT sea skim at supersonic. It ravels 99% of its path at subsonic speeds at wave top, then just before it enters terminal phase, it zooms up – making itself an extremely easy target to sense, target, and shoot out of the sky, and then supposedly zooms down on the target at supersonic speed.

            It’s all for show – a SS ASCM is much more vulnerable to shoot down than a subsonic sea skimmer. The Russians always go for show, and big headline speed specs because they know the suckers in the US media and ignorant commenters will be impressed without having the foggiest idea of how cruise missiles and anti-cruise missiles really work. It’s Potemkin Village stuff.

          • El Kabong

            “Supersonic cruise missiles are extremely overrated …. they’re actually easier to sense, target, and destroy than wave hugging subsonics, which are very difficult to sense, target, and destroy.”?

            Prove it.

            Seems the Russians haven’t been listening to you FOR DECADES.

            I suggest you go read up on Russian AShM’s. Say, AS-4 Kitchens, AS-6 Kingfish, SS-N-22 Sunburns…

          • Duane

            Yeah, that would be the same Russians who lost the Cold War, and are the world’s biggest failed state in history.

          • El Kabong

            Yeah, the west spent how many TRILLIONS to oppose the USSR and Warsaw Pact?

            How’d the Vietnam war work out for you Yanks?

          • Duane

            Thank you comrade .. your St. Petersberg slip is showing, by the way.

            So what if we spent trillions? We were competent and powerful enough to vastly outspend the Rooskies, who could not even competently run a bakery to keep bread on the shelf, let alone manage a harvest without having to buy American grain, or to run a military that wasn’t so horribly incompetent that the Soviets killed more of their OWN military and civilians than the Nazis did.

            Russians – the world’s most incompetent human beings.

          • El Kabong

            Your hockey helmet slipped off, Duaney.

  • Refguy

    Nice to see some good news for a change. BZ

  • Z-man

    Funny how the media/politico spin is making the Houthis the bad bad guys in this when it’s the ‘Neoconned’ Saudis that are attacking the Houthis civilian population by air because they can’t beat them on the ground. Cholera and other diseases are being extended by the inept (or not) bombing by the Saudis on the civilian population.

  • Duane

    Word salad that means nothing.

    I answered your question – the analyst said it was a C-802 that his the UAE vessel, and the cruise missiles that the Navy says were fired by the same installation that hit the Swift appeared to have the same appearance on US sensors. If you cannot connect those dots and still insist on arguing with yourself, go ahead.

    Bottom line – it was a cruise missile attack on the USS Mason and the ships it was escorting that appear to be identical to the C-802 fired by the same forces a few days earlier that was in fact confirmed to be a C-802. Therefore, ipso facto it was C-802s that were fired at the Mason and her flock.

    If you want to argue that the Houthis, a rebel group with no known military weapons infrastructure at all, somehow went to a warehouse and said, “hmmmm. we fired our C-802s three days ago, what shall we use for this attack .. flip a coin, will it be the Russian Klubs in our inventory, or the Exocets, or shall we just use another batch of C-802s? So many choices! We might have to change out our entire fire control sensor system, of course, and change out our launchers, and go find another crew of highly trained operators to switch from the C-802s to one of those other whatchamacallit anti ship cruise missile systems we have just laying around ready to fire at whatever comes our way.”

    • El Kabong

      All you spew is, “Blah, blah, blah….LCS!…blah…”.

  • OldHickory21

    Congrats to Captain and crew.

  • Duane

    I’ve never questioned the area air defense capabilities of our area air defense warships – the CGs and DDGs – to conduct area air defense against ASCMs or ASBMs. That is what they do for a living.

    My mentioning (in total sarcasm directed at you only) of having to change out missiles, missile launchers, sensors, and operating crews was about the lowly Houthi rebels, not about the capabilities of the US Navy. I’m sure you understood that unless you’re a lot dumber than I think. You are just filibustering because I caught you flatfooted making irrelevant comments.