U.S. Destroyer Used SM-2s to Down 3 Land Attack Missiles Launched from Yemen, Says Pentagon

October 19, 2023 5:12 PM
USS Carney (DDG-64) transits the Suez Canal, Oct. 18, 2023. US Navy Photo

This post has been updated with additional information on Houthi land attack cruise missiles. 

A U.S. guided-missile destroyer took out three land attack missiles fired from the shore of Western Yemen on Thursday, U.S. officials confirmed.

USS Carney (DDG-64) “shot down” the three missiles and a number of drones from Houthi-controlled territory in Yemen, according to Pentagon officials.

“This action was a demonstration of the integrated air and missile defense architecture that we have built in the Middle East and that we are prepared to utilize whenever necessary to protect our partners and our interests in this important region. There were no casualties to U.S. forces and none that we know of to any civilians on the ground,” Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters on Thursday.

An early incident assessment reviewed by USNI News said Carney fired Standard Missile-2s to down the land attack missiles over the Red Sea and eight drones launched from Western Yemen. At no time was the ship threatened, according to the assessment.

It’s unclear what the missiles were targeting, but Ryder told reporters the missiles were headed north, “potentially toward targets in Israel.”

However, Ryder did not give specifics as to the type of missile launched. The west coast of Yemen is more than 1,000 miles from the southernmost tip of Israel – the outer range limit of most land attack cruise missiles.

Houthi rebels in Yemen have previously indicated an interest in fighting against Israel, Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies told USNI News. They have raised that again following the most recent attacks and the 2021 conflict between Israel and Hamas.

Houthi forces on parade with a Quds-2 land attack cruise missile

The Houthis do have evolving long-range strike capabilities, such as the Quds series of land attack cruise missiles supplied by Iran, Ben Taleblu said.

“Some of these systems can reach southern Israel, like Eilat for example, when fired from Houthi-controlled territory in northern Yemen,” he said.

The missile intercept comes as the U.S. Navy is massing forces in the Eastern Mediterranean following the Hamas terrorist attacks on Israel. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has ordered the Ford and Eisenhower Carrier Strike Groups and the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group, with the embarked 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, to the region.

CNN first reported the incident.

The militias, which have fought for almost a decade against the Saudi-backed government in Yemen, have been supplied by Iran with a variety of weapons, including anti-ship cruise missiles and land attack weapons, naval analyst Chris Carlson told USNI News on Thursday.

Carney, currently on an independent deployment, had previously served until 2020 as one of four guided-missile destroyers that were assigned to Naval Station Rota, Spain, as part of the Navy’s forward-deployed force in Europe. The ships are all capable of ballistic missile defense and regularly patrol the region.

The destroyer transited the Suez Canal into the Red Sea, from the Mediterranean Sea on Wednesday, U.S. 5th Fleet announced.

There were a series of attacks on U.S. warships in 2016 in the Red Sea. USS Mason (DDG-87) intercepted two missiles with a combination of Standard Missile 2s and single Evolved Seasparrow Missile (ESSM) to counter two missiles fired at a collection of ships off the coast of Yemen in the first of several thwarted attacks against U.S. ships in the southern Red Sea.

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone is the editor of USNI News. He has covered legislation, acquisition and operations for the Sea Services since 2009 and spent time underway with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the Canadian Navy.
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