US-Supplied Defense System Failed To Intercept Houthi Missile Attack On Saudi Capital

Tyler Durden's picture

A new study in the New York Times suggests that Saudi Arabia's state of the art defense system failed to intercept the ballistic missile fired by Yemen's Houthi rebels which nearly hit Riyadh's international airport on November 4th. The report contradicts the official claims of the Saudi and American governments, which both announced immediately after the incident that the US-supplied Patriot missile defense system had successfully intercepted the Houthi fired Scud.  

The analysis, which utilized open-source material in the form of available video and social media photos of the aftermath of the attack, was conducted by a team of missile experts, and threatens to shake confidence in the US system, which is currently implemented by American allies around the world from South Korea and Taiwan to Turkey, Israel and Japan, among others. 

Image via Indian Express, representational image

And notably President Trump himself had announced while aboard Air Force One on the day following the attack, “Our system knocked the missile out of the air.” Trump also emphasized the importance of demonstrable success of the systems and added, “That’s how good we are. Nobody makes what we make, and now we’re selling it all over the world.”

But The New York Times report begins with a flat contradiction of that claim:

The official story was clear: Saudi forces shot down a ballistic missile fired by Yemen’s Houthi rebel group last month at Saudi Arabia’s capital, Riyadh. It was a victory for the Saudis and for the United States, which supplied the Patriot missile defense system.


...But an analysis of photos and videos of the strike posted to social media suggests that story may be wrong. Instead, evidence analyzed by a research team of missile experts appears to show the missile’s warhead flew unimpeded over Saudi defenses and nearly hit its target, Riyadh’s airport. The warhead detonated so close to the domestic terminal that customers jumped out of their seats.

The Houthi missile was identified at the time as a Burqan-2, revealed in a video of the November 4 launch produced by a Houthi group, and is a variant of the Scud missile commonly used in the region. The attack took Middle East observers by surprise as the missile traveled about 600 miles and reveals a growing sophistication in the Houthi arsenal - all of which led to a number of researchers to claim Iranian origins of the weapon, something which Iran and its regional allies continue to deny.

Image via How Stuff Works/Raytheon

As part of the NYT investigation experts primarily examined the multiple videos and photos of missile debris locations and missile parts, and concluded that the Saudis couldn't have intercepted the warhead, which further appears to have exploded on impact, something which wouldn't have happened had the projectile been effectively intercepted. 

The report continues

Saudi officials said the debris, which appears to belong to a downed Burqan-2, showed a successful shootdown. But an analysis of the debris shows that the warhead components – the part of the missile that carries the explosives – were missing. The missing warhead signaled something important to the analysts: that the missile may have evaded Saudi defenses.


...This would explain why the debris in Riyadh only appears to consist of the rear tube. And it suggests that the Saudis may have missed the missile, or only hit the tube after it had separated and begun to fall uselessly toward earth.

Researchers also examined extensive video and eyewitness testimony from the airport and in the vicinity of what the Saudi authorities initially reported as mere falling debris, however, the evidence points to an explosion that could only be explained by the impact of the warhead, which likely evaded the defensive measures. Videos recorded an explosion which occurred at a location very near the main domestic terminal of the airport, the immediate aftermath of which was clearly visible and was strongly felt inside the terminal. 

Video sequence showing footage collected from the November 4th attack.

The warhead, the report says, continued on its trajectory after mid-air separation from the rest of the missile, which it is designed to do, making it harder to intercept as it nears its target. Though Saudi officials claimed that it was only debris from an intercepted missile that hit the airport, researchers concluded

The blast was small, and satellite imagery of the airport taken immediately before and after the blast is not detailed enough to capture the crater from the impact, the analysts said. But it does show ground damage from the emergency vehicles, supporting the finding that the warhead hit just off the runway.


While the Houthis missed their target, Mr. Lewis said, they got close enough to show that their missiles can reach it and can evade Saudi defenses. “A kilometer is a pretty normal miss rate for a Scud,” he said. “The Houthis got very close to creaming that airport.”

One scientist cited in the report, Laura Grego, noted that it's hugely significant that the Saudis fired five times at the incoming missile and missed. "You shoot five times at this missile and they all miss? That's shocking,” she said. “That's shocking because this system is supposed to work.”

Though the Saudi government didn't respond to the report, and will likely not address the findings, it will be interesting to see the Patriot system's performance during the next incursion. As fighting is continuing to intensify in neighboring Yemen, it is likely only a matter of time.

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Conscious Reviver's picture

Yeah it was. They launched 5 interceptors and they all missed.

mendigo's picture

The article seems to gloss over a significant point: 

The missle did not strike high value target.

Are they lacking instructions for how to aim or was missile knocked off track?

msamour's picture

Hey Ding dong! Did you not read the article? Also you may want to check the specs on the Burkhan 2H missile. Here I even got the link for you. It has an effective error distance of about 1000 metres, for you American person that's about 3000 feet.


You could see one of those heading towards your hosue, but it's going to hit your mama's house instead. They are not the most precise piece of gear, but they get there anyways. 

Have a great day!

Volkodav's picture

      best sources say was scary close to cream the airport  

zoghead's picture

Thank you sirs..each and every dude on ZH... by far the most brilliant and humorous.

I get my daily fix of humor (and brains) from here, several times a day.

Till then let the Houthi's stuff more shoes in their missiles..way to go!!!

Volkodav's picture

        Saakasvilli arrested in Kiev


land_of_the_few's picture

Was he caught breaking into a Botox or buttwax warehouse? Sack-n-Crack-ashvili


Volkodav's picture

      dunno   great idea insert nutcase drug addict criminal govern Odessa

      Georgia want him extradited for crimes there

Conscious Reviver's picture

Spasibas Volkodav. Great news.


Volkodav's picture

      now there is talk supporters broke him free

      what a mess

      Ukr economy is near half what before maidan

      best high skilled ran to Russia

      manufacture and business also


BlindMonkey's picture

But did you see the video of him threatening to throw himself off the roof in the standoff?  Quite possibly he outdid his tie eating.  

Volkodav's picture

     didn't watch any video


HowdyDoody's picture

Tie-chewer on the roof.

The Ukrops claim he is trying to start anpother maidan, and is funded by the Russians (natch).

Video after escape from clutches of SBU.

He is like Netanyahu, desperate for any way out of being investigated for corruption.

BlindMonkey's picture

When I posted, I didn't know about the mob rescuing him from the police van in a standoff.  


What a shit show. 

Conscious Reviver's picture

At least our allies, the Ukies can still sell top notch missle components to L'il Kim. Is Amerika winning or what?

Shemp 4 Victory's picture

Kiev banderites needs to scrape up some cash by any means possible. They failed to meet all of the EC requirements needed to receive their next EU loan tranche.

zeroboris's picture

I think, Saudi personnel are the main cause of the fuckup.

Conscious Reviver's picture

Saudis are not allowed to touch any of it. Next!

Conscious Reviver's picture

Saudis are not allowed to touch any of it. Next!

Debugas's picture

the system failed because Houthis did not put a beacon onto their missile

Maestro Maestro's picture

Zerohedge and rockets?

That Zerohedge no longer reports the Israeli Jews unlawfully bombing and murdering the Syrians - but publishes articles promoting bitcoin every 5 seconds - is PROOF that Zerohedge has become an AngloZionist psyop.

D.T.Barnum's picture

I don't think it's a psyop, I think they are just trying to pull views to make money, and people like to be validated with cryptocurrency fluff porn.  I'm pretty sure they posted an article yesterday about Israel bombing syria.  You get a mix of things here.

Davidduke2000's picture

he is correct, yesterday ZH posted that israel hit targets in syria while over Lebanon, I wish the Lebanese can buy some shoulder manpads to shoot down these jets, the Russian manpads VERBA.

Davidduke2000's picture

zerohedge is here not to please you and allow you posting, it's a private enterprise with the goal to make money, however advertise or make donations get coverage.

but bitcoin was the new and still is as it is climbing toward $12000, but started to see some resistance as the number of buyers is decreasing.

Maestro Maestro's picture

Unlike you, I'm not here to please the Tylers and help them make money on my back.

One of these is not like the others..'s picture

This is actually a financial blog, believe it or not...


Maestro Maestro's picture

Money and politics are the same thing, genius.

UmbilicalMosqueSweeper's picture

Especially when controlled by the joos.

HRClinton's picture

That's because BTC gives HODLers a bigger woody, than bombing stories. 

CaptainMoonlight's picture

AHA! I now finally get why we sold them that shit equipment, er, uh, I mean top of the line military hardware! 



Robert Trip's picture

I just cancelled my order.

WTFUD's picture

American military stuff costs a lot of money, is always way over budget with delays on the production schedule . . . . should we hear now that it might not even work would be the final nail in the coffin for this once proud nation.

The RATS will be jumping ship in droves. Time to reinforce the Overseas Bases to be on the safe side, the natives appear restless. lol

PrivetHedge's picture

Sounds a bit like the (still classified) Apollo space program.

It's all Hollywood. Nothing works. Nothing ever did.

Mike Masr's picture

So where does that leave us with Kim's missiles?

UmbilicalMosqueSweeper's picture

Back to "Duck and Cover" technology.

Conscious Reviver's picture

"US-Supplied Defense System Failed To Intercept Houthi Missile Attack On Saudi Capital"
My response (like some ZH poster always says. Sorry,name escapes me at the moment.)
No shite Sherlock.
Amerika exposed as kleptocratic paper tiger.

Hubbs's picture

So when does Saudi put in an order for Russian S400s?

Davidduke2000's picture

they did but it take 3 to 5 years to get.

Robert Trip's picture

"You can't his a scud

The systems a dud.

The systems a dud

When you can't hit a scud."

Dwarsligger's picture

Jim Willie was right.

Yellow_Snow's picture

Sometimes he gets lucky...  once-in-a-while between the 'schizophrenic rants'...

Davidduke2000's picture

I have been posting for a while that the patriot and THAAD are crap, erdogan said that the patriot was crap and useless , this is the reason he bought Russia S400.

yet poor Japan and SK and other nation who are buying american weapons especially the F35, they are buying junk worthy of a junkyard.

msamour's picture

Please, no one worth his salt wants an F35 in his junkyard. It will bring the value of all other scrap down...

PrivetHedge's picture

Japan and SK are special cases, they are told what to buy and that the US will be operating it.

That's the beauty of being the occupying power. It's a win-win.

just the tip's picture


until the summer of 1943 the US did not have functioning torpedoes.  there are documentaries all over that point out the navy knew this in 1928 and congress would not appropriate the funds to research the issue.  at least the nave wanted to research the issue.  in this case, the rolls appear to be reversed.  congress throws money at a problem the MIC will not fix.  just keep generting those profits for the stockholders.

Volkodav's picture

       told pearl harbor no shallow run torpedo exists.

       Japan incapable

Pendolino's picture

But it does make a very pretty not so early warning device. Mmmmm, fireworks.