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U.S. attacks radar sites in Yemen in retaliation for missile attacks on Navy warships

U.S. attacks radar sites in Yemen in retaliation for missile attacks on Navy warships

Aegis destroyer USS Stout (DDG-55), launching a Tomahawk missile in 2011. File. (Image: Screen grab of USN video via YouTube, MilitaryNotes)

This came in just before sign-off this evening (Wednesday).  It looks like we’ve launched Tomahawk missiles at three radar sites on the Yemeni coast.  The Tomahawk attack was launched in the 4 AM hour on 13 October, Yemen time.  (13 October, incidentally, happens to be the U.S. Navy’s birthday.)

See today’s previous reporting on the missile-attack saga here and here.

According to NPR:

A U.S. official says the Navy has destroyed three radar locations in Yemen after missiles were fired at a U.S. destroyer off the Yemeni coast.

The official says:

“Earlier this evening (9 p.m. EDT / 4 a.m. local time in Yemen), the destroyer USS Nitze launched Tomahawk cruise missiles targeting three coastal radar sites in in Yemen along the Red Sea coast, north of the Bab-el-Mandeb strait. Initial assessments indicate that all three targets were destroyed.

“Destroying these radar sites will degrade their ability to track and target ships in the future. These radars were active during previous attacks and attempted attacks on ships in the Red Sea, including last week’s attack on the USA-flagged vessel “Swift-2”, and during attempted attacks on USS Mason and other ships as recently as today.

“The three radar sites were in remote areas, where there was little risk of civilian casualties or collateral damage. …

“All of these are in Houthi-controlled territory.”

We can hope this response will deter the Houthi rebels, but I’m not counting on it.  If they were using commercial coastal surveillance radars to assist in targeting, it won’t be a big stretch for them to use commercial radars mounted on boats for the same purpose.  In a typical littoral shipping environment, there’s no way for combat information center crews on the U.S. warships to figure out which of dozens or hundreds of commercial radars, operating where, are being used for rudimentary target tracking.

The attack needn’t set the Houthis back much in a tactical-capability sense.  We’ll see if they consider the threat of counterattack to be a deterrent to their purpose, whatever it is.

If we’re lucky, this may settle things down.  But the fact that the Houthis, and Iran, were willing to take this to the next level after Sunday’s initial attack could well imply otherwise.

Frankly, a lesson about American will would have been more effective if the U.S. forces on-scene had been free to pursue their attackers, immediately after tactical detection, and take out as much of the attack network as they could find.  Waiting for political deliberation, and choosing a “demonstration” target set with the objective of minimizing damage, conveys, inherently, a different message.  We no longer live in a world in which that latter message will be enough.

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