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3rd Missile Attack on Destroyer May Have Been False Alarm

U.S. Navy destroyer USS Mason passes through the Suez Canal in March 2011; two missiles fired from rebel-held territory in Yemen landed near it on Oct. 10. (AP photo)
U.S. Navy destroyer USS Mason passes through the Suez Canal in March 2011; two missiles fired from rebel-held territory in Yemen landed near it on Oct. 10. (AP photo)

Defense Department officials are walking back reports that the guided missile destroyer Mason was targeted a third time by missiles launched from the coast of Yemen this weekend, saying this week that they are still analyzing data about the alarm.

On Monday, Pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis, a Navy captain, told reporters that officials can't confirm the third attack, purported to have happened Oct. 15.

The Mason, near the strait of Bab-el-Mandeb with the destroyer Nitze and amphibious transport dock in the vicinity, received indications that missiles were inbound, Davis said.

"We've not actually determined that happened," he said. "We're not able to call it."

Davis' remarks were first reported Tuesday by Military Times.

A spokesman for U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, Lt. Ian McConnaughey, told Military.com on Wednesday that the Mason received indications of possible inbound cruise missiles while it was operating with the Nitze in the international waters of the Red Sea.

"USS Mason deployed appropriate countermeasures in response to the threat indications it was receiving," he said. "U.S. commanding officers are authorized and obligated to act in self-defense to threat indications that appear to endanger their ships. No U.S. ships were struck, and there were no injuries to our Sailors."

On Wednesday, the Navy continued to review the details and analyze data related to the cruise missile threat "indications" received by the Mason on Oct. 15, McConnaughey said.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson told reporters Oct. 15 that the Mason had apparently come under attack a third time.

"The [USS Mason] appears to have come under attack in the Red Sea again by coastal defense cruise missiles fired from the coast of Yemen," he said.

It's not clear what might have triggered a possible false alarm for the Mason or what countermeasures were employed.

A Navy official confirmed that the Mason launched a RIM-162 Evolved SeaSparrow Missile and two Standard Missile-2s, as well as a Nulka decoy missile, in response to the first pair of cruise missiles launched from Houthi rebel-controlled territory on the coast of Yemen on Oct. 9. All these are measures designed to immobilize incoming missiles or lure them away from a real target, such as a ship.

When a second pair of missiles targeted the Mason and other ships in the region Oct. 12, the Navy responded by launching a barrage of five Tomahawk missiles from the Nitze, destroying three radar sites in Yemen used to target the ships.

-- Richard Sisk contributed to this report.

-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at@HopeSeck.

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