Michael J. Armstrong
Security, Middle East
And has already done so in combat.
When USS Mason fended-off several anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs) near Yemen a year ago, it was a minor event: a few shots fired, no one hurt, mission continued. But it was noteworthy for its many tactical, operational and strategic implications.
On October 9, 2016, Mason’s Aegis combat system detected two ASCMs launching thirty miles away in Yemen. It responded with two long range Standard Missile interceptors, one medium range Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile interceptor and a Nulka missile radar decoy. One ASCM (possibly intercepted) went down twelve miles out, while the other crashed into the sea nine miles out, so the ship did not need to employ its short range Phalanx gun.
On October 12 Mason faced a single ASCM and intercepted it eight miles out. Its defense against more ASCMs on October 15 also succeeded.
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ASCMs have been a primary ship-versus-ship weapon for fifty years, ever since INS Eilat‘s sinking on October 21, 1967. But Mason’s success is apparently only the second time a warship’s defensive missile intercepted a hostile ASCM. (HMS Gloucester used a Sea Dart missile to intercept an Iraqi Silkworm on February 25, 1991.) That itself merits a footnote in naval history.