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U.S. Navy Successfully Thwarts Attack With First Engagement Of Missile Defense S

seruriermarshal

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The American guided missile destroyer USS Mason and the amphibious transport dock USS Ponce came under attack by two cruise missiles fired from somewhere inside Yemen last Sunday. The Mason fired a whole bunch of weaponry at the attacking missiles in response, and it may just be the first time this naval defensive system has been forced to respond in the real world – and it worked.

As it stands, the U.S. military is part of a campaign with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates backing Sunni Muslims against Houthi rebels, supported by Iran, in Yemen’s civil war. The incoming missiles were fired from coastal port area controlled by these rebels, but it does not appear that anyone has specifically claimed responsibility for the attack on the American vessels according to the Military Times.

As the cruise missiles screamed towards their targets, the Mason fired up its defense systems meant to knock them out of the sky.

The destroyer fired three missiles in defense in total: two SM-2 missiles and one Enhanced Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM) to destroy the incoming ordnance, along with a Nulka anti-ship missile decoy, USNI News reported:

While the Pentagon will not confirm details of Mason’s engagement, the use of both missiles by the U.S. is, “very significant,” Bryan Clark, a naval analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments and former aide to retired former-Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert, told USNI News on Monday.

“It might be the first time the SM-2 used against an actual threat for which it was designed,” Clark said.

“It’s definitely the first time ESSM has been used… This is obviously a huge deal.”

The SM-2s have been in use for decades, originally designed to defend ships against cruise-missile attacks from Russia. That’s all fine, I suppose, but none of that expensive defensive hardware has ever been used in a real engagement before. Virtually every naval engagement the United States has fought over the past few decades hasn’t really been at an adversary that was in a position to effectively fire back at American ships.

But apparently the system still works.

It’s a complicated system, too. The SM-2s are designed to counter a wide variety of threats from the air, and a significantly upgraded design, known as the SM-6, can even take down ballistic missiles in their most deadly terminal phase. The other defensive missile fired by the Mason, the ESSM, is designed to take out agile attacking missiles that skim just above the sea surface, which can make them especially hard to take down.

And then there’s the Nulka, the newest – and possibly the most innovative – system of them all. It’s essentially a rocket that can hover, but once fired off of the defending ship, it slowly moves away. All the while it has a decoy system that “projects” a ghostly radar return for another ship that isn’t actually there, leading the attacking missiles away. You can see the whole system work in action in this video released by enormous defense contractor BAE systems, or hell, just check out the brochure from other enormous defense contractor Lockheed Martin:

All of this might seem like overkill just to take down a few missiles, but it can go badly for any ship that doesn’t have these systems. Just last week the Houthi severely damaged an Emirati high-speed transport vessel with a similar weapon.

Now, though, comes the question of what to do next, and the situation has become more complicated. USNI explains that while a Naval captain has unilateral abilities to defend their ship from danger, retaliation requires a lot more paperwork. The Navy is making noises about finding out who did what and responding accordingly, but it’s not so simple.

Support of the campaign in Yemen is waning with the American military brass, the Military Times says, and the upcoming American presidential election just adds to the uncertainty. But it’s unlikely that this incident, and the response to it, won’t shape the U.S. military’s longterm involvement in the region.

Editor’s note: Headline removed “Cold War” to clarify that, while this is a Cold War era concept and the SM-2 is from that time period, the rest of the technology involved in the attack is very much advanced.

http://foxtrotalpha.jalopnik.com/u-s-navy-successfully-thwarts-attack-with-first-engage-1787678550
 

sferrin

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"Foxtrotalpha"

"The SM-2s have been in use for decades, originally designed to defend ships against cruise-missile attacks from Russia. That’s all fine, I suppose, but none of that expensive defensive hardware has ever been used in a real engagement before. Virtually every naval engagement the United States has fought over the past few decades hasn’t really been at an adversary that was in a position to effectively fire back at American ships.

But apparently the system still works."

Ye Gods. ::)
 

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What a shame they failed to give the credit to the Nulka's developers - Australia. Typical American hubris...
 

marauder2048

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Kadija_Man said:
What a shame they failed to give the credit to the Nulka's developers - Australia. Typical American hubris...

The official Australian history of Nulka says it was a US concept with a US payload plus
an Australian rocket motor mated to an Australian carrier vehicle.

Lockheed now owns the US part and BAE now owns the Australian part.
 

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marauder2048 said:
Kadija_Man said:
What a shame they failed to give the credit to the Nulka's developers - Australia. Typical American hubris...

The official Australian history of Nulka says it was a US concept with a US payload plus
an Australian rocket motor mated to an Australian carrier vehicle.

Really? Where?

According to the "official Australian history of Nulka" the US doesn't get a mention until the very end...

Nulka Active Missile Decoy

The Nulka Active Missile Decoy protects ships from missiles and has been adopted by several nations.

Its unique hovering rocket containing an active electronic warfare package has revolutionised ship protection. Once launched, Nulka can fly a pre-programmed flight path to entice sea-skimming missiles away from the ship.

The system derived from a concept based on work undertaken by Defence scientists in the 1970s; and the belief that variable-thrust, solid-propellant rocket-motor technology could be used with guidance commands to enable the decoy to hover in controlled flight.

Following successful trials in 1981, DSTO (now DST Group) developed Nulka’s hovering rocket motor in consultation with the Explosives Factory Maribyrnong and the Ordnance Factory Maribyrnong (subsequently part of Australia’s ADI Limited).

In 1986, Australia and the US undertook a full-scale collaborative engineering development. In 1988, AWA Defence Industries (now part of BAE Systems) was awarded a contract for the engineering development of the Nulka system and hovering rocket vehicle. ADI was sub-contracted to develop and manufacture the rocket motor at its Mulwala facility in NSW. A separate contract went to the American company Sippican Inc. to develop the electronic payload for the decoy. Meanwhile, between 1988 and 1992, Nulka was tested in DST's wind tunnel in Melbourne where its aerodynamic configuration was developed.

In 1994, the licence agreement for the Nulka Decoy was signed between the Department of Defence and AWA Defence Industries. In 1996, Australia signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the joint production of Nulka decoys for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) and the US Navy.

In 1999, DSTO and BAE Systems signed a technology licence agreement for Anti-Ship Missile Simulation Software. This software has been incorporated into a Nulka Tactics Generation Model, which is used as a generic anti-ship missile defence modelling facility as well as for Nulka marketing and development. By 1999, Nulka was in full production for the RAN, US Navy and Canadian Armed Forces. It was used in active service in the Gulf War in 2003.

BAE Systems, the prime contractor for the Nulka system, received a Commendation in the Large Advanced Manufacturer category of the 2005 Governor of Victoria Export Awards for its overseas sales of Nulka. According to BAE Systems, the Nulka project has created more than 400 jobs in Victoria and South Australia.

It is one of Australia’s largest and most successful defence exports.
[Source]

Lockheed now owns the US part and BAE now owns the Australian part.

"It is one of Australia’s largest and most successful defence exports."
 

marauder2048

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Kadija_Man said:
marauder2048 said:
Kadija_Man said:
What a shame they failed to give the credit to the Nulka's developers - Australia. Typical American hubris...

The official Australian history of Nulka says it was a US concept with a US payload plus
an Australian rocket motor mated to an Australian carrier vehicle.

Really? Where?

According to the "official Australian history of Nulka" the US doesn't get a mention until the very end...

That's not the official history.

The 210 page "NULKA" A Compelling Story INGENUITY : PARTNERSHIP : PERSEVERANCE" by David Gambling, Mal Crozier and Don Northam is the official history.

It's actually too large to upload but can be found here; I'm sure you've read and understood it.

http://www.dst.defence.gov.au/sites/default/files/publications/documents/Nulka-a-compelling-story.pdf
 

marauder2048

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sferrin said:
marauder2048 said:
I'm sure you've read and understood it.

I'm guessing not since this is on the first page of the Forward:

"In 1986 Australia and the United States signed an agreement to undertake
full-scale collaborative development of the Nulka concept. "

To crudely summarize:

It goes back to an NRL funded effort in the 70's to develop two offboard active electronic decoys: one airborne and one buoy based.
The airborne effort faltered due to lack of a suitable flight vehicle which the Australians, by virtue of evolutionary work on Malkara,
Ikara and Turana had a path towards achieving.

This wasn't an accidental collision of efforts but an outgrowth of joint UK/US/AU/CA naval electronic warfare and defense forums, specifically
TTCP Subgroup Q and ABAC-4 and the resulting cross-pollination of technical talent (visiting scholars) and ideas at the various research laboratories.
 

Grey Havoc

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Another attempted attack: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-yemen-security-missiles-idUSKCN12C294
 

Avimimus

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lastdingo said:
I read that two anti-ship missiles dropped into the sea harmlessly.

Were they shot down or deceived or did they fail technically?

Weren't they ballistic missiles without terminal homing? So they'd have a very low chance of scoring a hit even without interception.
 

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marauder2048 said:
Kadija_Man said:
marauder2048 said:
Kadija_Man said:
What a shame they failed to give the credit to the Nulka's developers - Australia. Typical American hubris...

The official Australian history of Nulka says it was a US concept with a US payload plus
an Australian rocket motor mated to an Australian carrier vehicle.

Really? Where?

According to the "official Australian history of Nulka" the US doesn't get a mention until the very end...

That's not the official history.

The 210 page "NULKA" A Compelling Story INGENUITY : PARTNERSHIP : PERSEVERANCE" by David Gambling, Mal Crozier and Don Northam is the official history.

It's actually too large to upload but can be found here; I'm sure you've read and understood it.

http://www.dst.defence.gov.au/sites/default/files/publications/documents/Nulka-a-compelling-story.pdf

Interesting. You'll have to provide a better reference than that. I need a page number.

At the moment, scanning through this document, development of NULKA was an Australian achievement with American participation. It occurred in Australia, with Australian resources, which is the point I made originally and which appears to have gotten so many American noses out of joint for some reason. Hubris perhaps? Gentlemen, it may surprise you but the USA is not the font of all wisdom...
 

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Avimimus said:
lastdingo said:
I read that two anti-ship missiles dropped into the sea harmlessly.

Were they shot down or deceived or did they fail technically?

Weren't they ballistic missiles without terminal homing? So they'd have a very low chance of scoring a hit even without interception.

Nope. Reports are saying C-802s, which are antiship cruise missiles. There was a separate attack on a Saudi airbase using a ballistic missile. Perhaps you're conflating the two events?

As far as intercepts, it sounds like for the first pair, there was one possible intercept and one for into the water. That's not necessarily a technical failure; could be a soft kill.

USNI has a pretty good article.

https://news.usni.org/2016/10/11/uss-mason-fired-3-missiles-to-defend-from-yemen-cruise-missiles-attack

There was a third missile (the second reported attack) that seems to be a confirmed hard kill.

Mason is definitely on her game.
 

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U.S. military strikes Yemen after missile attacks on U.S. Navy ship

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. military launched cruise missile strikes on three coastal radar sites in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen, retaliating after failed missile attacks this week on a U.S. Navy destroyer, U.S. officials said on Wednesday.

The strikes authorized by President Barack Obama represent Washington's first direct military action against Houthi-controlled targets in Yemen's conflict. The Pentagon said initial U.S. assessments indicated the radar sites were destroyed.

"These limited self-defense strikes were conducted to protect our personnel, our ships, and our freedom of navigation in this important maritime passageway," Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said. "The United States will respond to any further threat to our ships and commercial traffic, as appropriate."

(Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

https://www.yahoo.com/news/u-military-strikes-yemen-missile-attacks-u-navy-031815625.html?ref=gs
 

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Official footage from the incident showing the SM2, ESSM and Nulka launches (nothing else though):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fkssghUIvNQ
 

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The fact that they had to deploy all three systems against just two missiles does suggest to me that the missiles ECM suites (or alternatively / in addition, off-board EW support) was nothing to joke about.
 

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Dragon029 said:
Official footage from the incident showing the SM2, ESSM and Nulka launches (nothing else though):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fkssghUIvNQ

The video is USS Nitze strikes 3 Houthi radar positions on Yemen coast with Tomahawks in response to attacks on US naval assets in Red Sea
 

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Grey Havoc said:
The fact that they had to deploy all three systems against just two missiles does suggest to me that the missiles ECM suites (or alternatively / in addition, off-board EW support) was nothing to joke about.

I don't think there is any evidence for that at all.

Three interceptors fired for two inbounds is actually less than I'd expect ("shoot-shoot-look" would be the engagement strategy against near threats) and jammers out should be pretty much automatic.
 

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Orionblamblam said:
TomS said:
Mason is definitely on her game.

The other ship involved was the USS Ponce. Which has a Fricken' Laser Beam. I *really* want to know if it was deployed. Did they try? Did they not try? If they tried, did it work?


I would guess, "almost certainly not". It's got the wattage to shoot down a plastic civilian "drone" or light a "Freedom Fighter" on fire, but to shoot down an antiship missile you'd want about ten times the power. (If not a hundred.) The MIRACL they were using to shoot down Firebees and Vandals (Talos) back in the day was a multi-megawatt laser. IIRC the laser the Ponce has is about 30kw.
 

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TomS said:
Grey Havoc said:
The fact that they had to deploy all three systems against just two missiles does suggest to me that the missiles ECM suites (or alternatively / in addition, off-board EW support) was nothing to joke about.

I don't think there is any evidence for that at all.

Three interceptors fired for two inbounds is actually less than I'd expect ("shoot-shoot-look" would be the engagement strategy against near threats) and jammers out should be pretty much automatic.

As you say, I'd think ECM and Nulka would be deployed as a matter of course. I'd be curious what Nukla's flight time is and how long they were tracking the ASMs before they decided to shoot.
 

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In case this hasn't been posted before. I would guess a Nulka decoy can't hang around too long so it would be launched fairly late.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1aYwTGyBqr8
 

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Any ideas what the longest burning solid motor out there is? The motors for SM-2 and S-300 burn for roughly 30 seconds. The motor for the AGM-130 is (was?) and end-burner so probably burned for a while.
 

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sferrin said:
Orionblamblam said:
TomS said:
Mason is definitely on her game.

The other ship involved was the USS Ponce. Which has a Fricken' Laser Beam. I *really* want to know if it was deployed. Did they try? Did they not try? If they tried, did it work?


I would guess, "almost certainly not". It's got the wattage to shoot down a plastic civilian "drone" or light a "Freedom Fighter" on fire, but to shoot down an antiship missile you'd want about ten times the power. (If not a hundred.) The MIRACL they were using to shoot down Firebees and Vandals (Talos) back in the day was a multi-megawatt laser. IIRC the laser the Ponce has is about 30kw.
Obviously I wouldn't want to risk a ship to find out its' effectiveness but didn't this laser burn through the outside motor casing of an outboard motor on a small 'swarming' vessel about 1km away? That is pretty thick/tough material don't know how it would compare to a missile body however.
 

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bobbymike said:
Obviously I wouldn't want to risk a ship to find out its' effectiveness but didn't this laser burn through the outside motor casing of an outboard motor on a small 'swarming' vessel about 1km away? That is pretty thick/tough material don't know how it would compare to a missile body however.

Isn't the issue more about the amount of time to engage the target? A motor boat is slow and fairly easy to track. A missile reaches its target very quickly after entering engagement range.
 

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sferrin said:
Any ideas what the longest burning solid motor out there is? The motors for SM-2 and S-300 burn for roughly 30 seconds. The motor for the AGM-130 is (was?) and end-burner so probably burned for a while.

As far as i know it would be AGM-142/Popeye. which can burn for 2 minutes.
 

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Avimimus said:
bobbymike said:
Obviously I wouldn't want to risk a ship to find out its' effectiveness but didn't this laser burn through the outside motor casing of an outboard motor on a small 'swarming' vessel about 1km away? That is pretty thick/tough material don't know how it would compare to a missile body however.

Isn't the issue more about the amount of time to engage the target? A motor boat is slow and fairly easy to track. A missile reaches its target very quickly after entering engagement range.

For the sort of ASCM threat encountered here, radome burn through from Ponce's laser would occur in ~ 3 seconds.
 

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sferrin said:
Any ideas what the longest burning solid motor out there is? The motors for SM-2 and S-300 burn for roughly 30 seconds. The motor for the AGM-130 is (was?) and end-burner so probably burned for a while.
Different class but still a solid motor:
https://youtu.be/URT86tpHPC4
 

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True. That one hadn't even entered my mind. I guess it pretty much just comes down to how much you can afford to devote to fuel, what it is, and how much you weigh.
 

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marauder2048 said:
For the sort of ASCM threat encountered here, radome burn through from Ponce's laser would occur in ~ 3 seconds.

Which works out to about a kilometer of travel at Mach 0.9. If LaWS can only engage at ~1 mile (1.6 km), as a couple of reports suggest, you don't achieve burn through until it's about 500 meters out. At that range, just killing the seeker isn't necessarily enough. You have to detonate the warhead or catastrophically damage the airframe to put he missile in the water. Otherwise the missile is coming aboard anyway.
 

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The LAWS on Ponce could likely dazzle or damage an IR/Optical sensor from a useful distance, though still a lot closer in than is comfortable. But otherwise it's not really going to be helpful against modern ASMs as-is. However, were the Skiffs ( which the Houthis have been using for scouting ) to try and get into RPG range, it would be an option. Of course, right about now the COs of those two destroyers are probably more inclined to deal with such threats using their Mk 45 5" guns than to wait around for Ponce to try something new.
 

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Regardless of the power of the laser... if your ship is under attack and a laser is what you got, a laser is what you use. Even if all you do is warm up the incoming missile, you're making it a brighter target for IR trackers.

If The Fricken Laser Beam has been proven to be minimally useful in combat, I'm still sending Ensign Skippy to man the thing. Who knows, he might get lucky.
 

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Orionblamblam said:
Regardless of the power of the laser... if your ship is under attack and a laser is what you got, a laser is what you use. Even if all you do is warm up the incoming missile, you're making it a brighter target for IR trackers.

If The Fricken Laser Beam has been proven to be minimally useful in combat, I'm still sending Ensign Skippy to man the thing. Who knows, he might get lucky.

Fortunately, the laser isn't all they've got. In the case of an inbound ASCM, I'd be much happier relying on the ship's CIWS.
 

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TomS said:
marauder2048 said:
For the sort of ASCM threat encountered here, radome burn through from Ponce's laser would occur in ~ 3 seconds.

Which works out to about a kilometer of travel at Mach 0.9. If LaWS can only engage at ~1 mile (1.6 km), as a couple of reports suggest, you don't achieve burn through until it's about 500 meters out. At that range, just killing the seeker isn't necessarily enough. You have to detonate the warhead or catastrophically damage the airframe to put he missile in the water. Otherwise the missile is coming aboard anyway.

It's a complex kill mechanism since the boresight error for the seeker will start to climb due to the increased heating.
I'll concede that there's a great deal of uncertainty here: depending on the material composition and thickness of the radome, radome cooling, the irradiance per sq mm, etc.

I guess my view is that it would tend to complement the other soft and hard kill systems.
 

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Some anti-ship missiles such as Hsiung Feng III have sensor fusion with both infrared sensor and radar. You can deceive the radar the usual way, and then use the DIRCM (laser) to keep the infrared sensor from telling the missile that it's heading the wrong way.

Or you don't deceive the radar and lasing the infrared sensor at least keeps the missile's logic from IDing your ship type and targeting you where you are the most vulnerable (VLS, for example) instead of a more primitive approach as typical for radar-guided missiles.
 

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http://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/uss-mason-fired-again-coast-yemen-officials-n666971
 

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At this point, I get the feeling that Mason is trolling the Huthis, trying to get them to use up their missile inventory.
 

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TomS said:
At this point, I get the feeling that Mason is trolling the Huthis, trying to get them to use up their missile inventory.

If only we had Fasthawk we could make life VERY exciting for the shooters. As it is, they're home eating dinner by the time Tomahawk arrives.
 

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They've probably left the launch point before the missile even crosses the coast. Truck mobile launchers, you know.

If the US wanted to kill the launchers, we'd put aircraft over Yemen and hit them right after launch. But I think we're content to attrit the missiles and kill the fixed sites associated with them.
 

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TomS said:
They've probably left the launch point before the missile even crosses the coast. Truck mobile launchers, you know.

If the US wanted to kill the launchers, we'd put aircraft over Yemen and hit them right after launch. But I think we're content to attrit the missiles and kill the fixed sites associated with them.

True, but anything less than a Global Hawk and they'll probably just shoot it down. If they've got mobile antiship missile launchers, and the radars to target them, it's not a stretch to think they might have something a bit better than MANPADS to defend them. And even strike aircraft take time to drop bombs. An air launched Long Range Precision Fires with a Mk72 booster on it might fit the bill though. Frankly I'm surprised we don't see those radars as soon as they light off to start looking for a ship.
 

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The Saudis and others are flying over Yemen routinely and not taking significant losses, especially at altitude. Heck, the US is flying Predators over there as well.

The radars the USN targeted are probably simple coastal surveillance sets. They don't lock on to a target, just pass location info. Until the Houthis started shooting at ships, such radars were not especially threatening.
 

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TomS said:
The Saudis and others are flying over Yemen routinely and not taking significant losses, especially at altitude. Heck, the US is flying Predators over there as well.

The radars the USN targeted are probably simple coastal surveillance sets. They don't lock on to a target, just pass location info. Until the Houthis started shooting at ships, such radars were not especially threatening.

Do you think they're just shooting them out there hoping the missiles lock onto something? Something like, "hey there's a blip at X,Y,Z, shoot it over there and maybe the seeker will see it".
 

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