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Navy Destroyer Fires Missiles in Self-Defense: Report

The guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87). (Photo: Department of Defense)
The guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87). (Photo: Department of Defense)

A Navy ship that came under fire from two missiles launched from rebel-held land in Yemen while it transited through international waters Sunday responded in self-defense with three missiles, a Defense Department official confirmed to Military.com.

USNI news first reported that the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Mason launched a RIM-162 Evolved SeaSparrow Missile and two Standard Missile-2s from the waters of the Red Sea, north of the Strait of Bab-el-Mandeb where it was operating when it came under attack.

A defense official confirmed that the missiles had been launched and also confirmed the outlet's report that the ship had used a Nulka missile decoy, designed to be launched to lure enemy missiles away from their targets.

The Raytheon-made SeaSparrow is designed to intercept supersonic anti-ship missiles, while the SM-2, also made by Raytheon, is the Navy's primary surface-to-air weapon and a key element of shipboard defense for destroyers.

The Mason was responding to two ballistic missiles that originated around 7 p.m. Sunday from Yemeni territory held by Shiite Houthi rebels. The Mason was not hit by the missiles, and an official from U.S. Navy Forces Central Command said Monday it remained unclear if the ship had been specifically targeted.

Previously, a defense official told the Associated Press that the Mason had used onboard defensive measures to protect itself after the first of the two missiles was fired, but until now no one had publicly confirmed that the ship did indeed fire back.

This exchange comes only a week after the high-speed logistics vessel Swift, a United Arab Emirates-leased ship formerly in service for the Navy's Military Sealift Command, was badly damaged by a missile while operating near the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait on Oct. 1. The Saudi-led coalition carrying out airstrikes on the rebels in Yemen said the Swift had been attacked by the Houthis.

UAE officials said the ship was transporting humanitarian aid when it was hit.

Today, the Mason remains in the general area that the exchange took place and is continuing a routine patrol, a defense official told Military.com.

"The U.S. is trying to look at what kind of a response would be appropriate in this situation," the official said. "There's no sort of a timeline for when a response will come."

-- The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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