USS Mason Fired Three Missiles During Anti-Ship Missile Attack Off Yemen

Sunday’s anti-ship missile attack on USS Mason while it patrolled the southern Red Sea was much more “lively” than previously thought. In total, the destoryer launched two SM-2 Standard surface-to-air missiles and an Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM) during the engagement. It also popped off Nulka decoys.

USNI News reports that during the attack, USS Mason was actually defending, or at least partially defending, USS Ponce, the Navy’s converted Austin class landing dock ship that serves as a forward-deployed counter-mine and special operations sea base. USS Ponce is one of the three US Navy ships (two destroyers and USS Ponce) that were sent to the region following the successful anti-ship missile attack on the UAE-operated HSV-2 Swift high-speed logistics catamaran.

It remains unclear if the first anti-ship missile was destroyed by the surface-to-air missiles fired from USS Mason, or by its electronic countermeasures and decoys, or if it went awry on its own. The second missile did impact the water of its own accord. An after-action investigation is currently underway, which will hopefully fill in the picture as to what exactly occurred near the Strait of Mandeb on Sunday—and if the first missile was indeed swatted out of the sky by the Arleigh Burke class destroyer.

This is definitely the first time a RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile has been used during a combat situation, and it is likely the first time a modernized version of the SM-2 has been put to use in a real-world scenario. The only other time I can remember an SM-2 being used was when an SM-2MR fired by the USS Vincennes mistakenly shot down an Iranian Airbus A300 during the Flight 655 incident in 1988. As such, this engagement will likely be studied in great detail for some time to come.

Iranian-backed Houthi rebels have denied that they were responsible for the attack on the US flotilla on Sunday, even though the missile came from territory they control, and the US Navy ships were operating in the same area where Swift was so badly struck; Houthi rebels did claim responsibility for that attack.

The Navy is making it clear that they will seek revenge for the attempted strike, with Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis stating today that “anybody who takes action, fires against U.S. Navy ships operating in international waters, does so at their own peril. We’re going to find out who did this and we will take action accordingly.” He added that analysts are actively working to discern who is responsible for the attack before any counter-attack is ordered.

As for Iran’s connection in all this, Davis remarked: “It’s not a secret that Iran has been actively supplying them and giving them the tools of war.”

So what’s going on here? Are Houthi rebels, now equipped with heavy weapons like anti-ship cruise missiles, just firing at any target of opportunity? Is Iran trying to pull the US into yet another conflict in the Middle East?

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.

UPDATE 10/12/2016 12:50PM PST: USS Mason has been attacked again, click here for the story.

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