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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Spiro The Greek's picture

Arabs can only use cassete players with 3K sound quality and limitless distortion output level...everything else is haram

cherry picker's picture

How will they stop a few thousand tiny drones coming, each with a pound or two of high explosives?

That is more scary than a missile as each drone can seek out its victim(s) prior to detonation.

HRClinton's picture

Smart Swarms: very dangerous, scary as hell.

beijing expat's picture

Of course it failed. The fucking things don't work. It's another e example of Washington bulllshit accepted as fact.

PrivetHedge's picture

Depends how you define 'work'.

Of course they are useless in a practical sense but they look great and cost a fortune so the US can make a lot of money salling them, but not worry if they need to bomb their customers at any stage.

So the blatant failure is not such an issue as it can be covered up with lies and more lies, and if required outright denials backed up by more lies. It's actually a good selling point as the US can promise their next customer that they'll be getting 'the good ones'. They don't exist either as they are all rubbish, but marketing and lies fill in the gaps. It's all hollywood anyway.

Pearson365's picture

A clear sign of the end of empire

Conscious Reviver's picture

Hear! Hear!

Hey, nice boat. You don't own one of those do you?

FirstTimeCaller's picture

Am I to believe you all are too stupid to go so far as to question the official report but blindly accept the comments from a propaganda outlet known as the New York Times? They’re not exactly known for intellectual honesty and journalistic integrity. Why doesn’t it surprise me that they seek to sew doubt into SA and the USA’s technological capability? The question here is whether or not the system worked and the question is easily verifiable. I, however, will not trust the New York Times or any other American establishment media to answer the question for me.

Just watch the video and tell me you have conclusive evidence as to whether the missile was shot down or landed. The fucker recording couldn’t even turn his phone the right way. And read this statement and tell me if it makes sense: “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, … But it does show ground damage from the emergency vehicles, supporting the finding that the warhead hit just off the runway.” In other words, satellite imagery shows no craters, and emergency vehicles would have damaged the ground inspecting either missile damage or debris, but the missile landed, believe us.

I have my own questions about the missile defense systems’ reliability and effectiveness because they are a critical part of our defense strategy and economy. However, I have no motivation to cast doubt on their worth for political gain. The New York Times, however, does. And it makes me wonder whether or not this is just the latest attempt to bankrupt the US economy by bringing a technologically advanced US industry to its knees.


PrivetHedge's picture

"I have my own questions about the missile defense systems’ reliability and effectiveness because they are a critical part of our defense strategy and economy."

They have nothing to do with our defence, they merely make idiot politicians take bigger risks, risks because no missile defence system has a hope against Russian hypersonic missiles.

They also damage our economy by focussing it on the dead end wars that merely serve to create enemies using american taxpayer money that's consequently removed from circulation.

Our missile systems endanger our country from physical attack, reckless policy and draining economic strangulation of the country.

UmbilicalMosqueSweeper's picture

Bring back the ubiquitous NIKE mssile systems.  They saved us from thousands of Russian nuclear bombs.

Brutlstrudl's picture

Fucking Murphy...

ThanksIwillHaveAnother's picture

The King Has No Clothes?

HoserF16's picture

Saudi capital was hit then? YAY...

Fireman's picture

The logical take away from this.... Russia's SAMS can track and whack Israeli slash anglozionazi terrorist missiles; Uncle Sam's "Patriot" crap can't.

bunkers's picture

Are they announcing this so Kim will know he can fire, at will, and not worry about being shot down?

Gobble D. Goop's picture

Little sticky tag on patriot missile:

Made in China

Quinvarius's picture

That is the same result they had in the 1991 Iraq war.  They don't kill the warhead.  Nothing shocking.  But it did keep it from hitting the intended target.

Etteguj Guj's picture

Shock n'Awe? More like shockingly awful.

HRClinton's picture

What gender was that rocket?


Satan's picture

15 million to replace those 5 Patriots...maybe Raytheon will throw in a free Tomahawk

morongobill's picture

Close only counts in horseshoes and nukes.

Debugas's picture

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

A: Geez, they already did about a month ago

Savvy's picture

about a month ago


LMAO!!!!! Too funny.

francis scott falseflag's picture

When will they be delivered ?   2018 or 2019?

shankster's picture

Experts agree that if the US were to face several incoming ICBM missiles at one time, it could not bring down even half of them.

General Fuster Cluck's picture

Recall when it was reported 200 men died in the North Korean mine cave in? Kim probably has his rocket factories and nuclear plutonium bomb mills deep underground in old coal mine tunnels. That was probably just an industrial accident like a fire.

I think the boy might have the Evil Empire whipped. We don't want even one of our cities nuked. Completely annihilating North Korea would not sweeten that deal for us.

All we have to do is admit that we cannot have hegemonic rule over that country. We cannot dictate our terms. They have true sovereignty.

I am Groot's picture

I'll be right back. I gotta go finish that hole in the backyard I was digging.

Savvy's picture

And some wonder why the Saudis are buying the Russian S-400. It should be painfully obvious.

In.Sip.ient's picture

You need to keep in mind, that ALL Soviet

designed missiles are intended to break up

on re-entry.  That makes it difficult to

determine which part is the "target" to

aim for.


So even if you have a 100% intercept rate,

the question remians... What did you intercept?


At least the Russkies are honest.  Their SAMs are

rated for 60-80% kill probability... you know you

don't have any guarantee there.


Maestro Maestro's picture

SCUDs are not ICBMs and do not go above the atmosphere and into outer space proper, to the best of my knowledge.

General Fuster Cluck's picture

I saw 600 mile range somewhere. That means they must go up 200 to 300 miles high for a maximum range ballistic arc. That is space. It means high mach number velocities also. Way way faster than a speeding bullet.

DEMIZEN's picture

crates of beryllium sheet for sale on alibaba. 140 /kilo. give me a couple of ingots some charcoal, sulphuric acid and some time to perfect the procedure and i will insulate your scuds for the reentry.

Dead Indiana Sky's picture

Profitability over functionality.  No different than anything else.

Gov No's picture

I wonder which executives from the American Military Industrial Complex will pay for this weapons system failure and be extradited to SA to be housed in the 5 star luxury hotel along with all the princes already held there for corruption.  If we're lucky they will even be suspended upside down and beaten.

DEMIZEN's picture

blind balistic missiles / rockets in a sand storm kinda dumb not precise but sure they instill fear. see under isis. same happens when landfires or dense smog hits. dense colloid system will disable most of radar detection systems. good luck with any combination of particles above.

MrBoompi's picture

We should not trust the NYT, the US government, or the Saudi government to tell us the truth about what happened.  First of all, there is no proof of the identity of the people who fired the "missile".  Even if it was an Iranian missle, there is no proof who fired it.  The best false flag effect would not be achieved if the missile was shot down.  We see it in Israel too.  Many of the rockets that are fired are not aimed at anything, but end up being the justification for military action.  However, anti-missile systems and their effectiveness are important issues.  I hope we don't have to find out how truly effective they are.   

DEMIZEN's picture

false flags are a useful tool when one dominates. it is unfortunately no longer the case. dynamics in ME changed.  region can smell IDF and SA blood. they will sit tight and storm in sandstorms. they have the numbers and soviet blueprints.


no numbers of somali niggas can fix the problem. takes money to boot them and they are in for money only.

lakecity55's picture

The anti-missile may have missed.

Then again, it may have hit the enemy missile.

AGuy's picture

Maxwell Smart: Missed by "that" much!

for the younger generations, Maxwell smart was a character on a 1960's sitcom spoof of intelligence services (ie CIA, NSA, etc).

koan's picture

Heh... we're fucked if NK gets serious.

General Fuster Cluck's picture

DPRK seem pretty serious to me. Quite professional in terms of their technical achievements. He is young and cuts a distinctive figure. I would feel disingenuous to make fun of him. Things have happened under his leadership. Impressive things. I cannot dismiss him. He seems trustworthy. I trust he would nuke the US in retaliation for all out war. He and the men around him seem competent enough and determined enough. He has a rag tag band of very serious nuclear missile men.

It will be interesting to see If South Korea can resist unification under Kim. I am across an ocean facing him as an adversary, and I am very impressed and respect the guy. How would the average Korean feel?

NuYawkFrankie's picture

Kim must be choking on his chiquaqua-chopped-suey at the total "awesomeness" of USSA Mil'turry hardware...

and the impenetrable, impregnable missile-defense shields it affords such locales as Seoul & Tokyo... not to mention Tel Aviv - or even Washington DC - should he get the idea of venturing a bit further afield.

Thordoom's picture

If it wasn't so scary that the imbecils with dual citizenship in government poke Kim with war propaganda i would laugh so hard going through this comment section. You guys are really funny. Imagin how the Japanes and South Koreans have to feel knowing that this state of the laugh equipment is supposed to protect them. I think its time to listen to Russians for them and bypass the crazies in DC.

On the side note I really bursted in laughter today watching RT news where Saakasvili was going to jump from a roof. Its a real treat to behold.

SmittyinLA's picture

Saakasvili= sak-o-shitty

I hate that guy he ordered artillery fired on civilians unprovoked in S Ossetia as Georgian prez, what a dick!

He got arrested, he needs the Sadam-Gaddafi treatment, I bet he sings and takes down the US State Dept and "fuck the EU Nuland" and Hillary, Obama is untouchable, completely unaccountable.

aloha_snakbar's picture

My wife worked at Raytheon on that missile system, and if Trump heard some of the things I have, he would not be bragging on it... don’t give away the keys to your bunker just yet...LOL...

I am Groot's picture

I hope your wife is great looking, a good cook, a fine mother and great in bed Dude, cause her physics and math skills suck donkey ass.

Mr Hankey's picture

LMAO. You might want to keep that one under your hat.

General Fuster Cluck's picture

When there is nuke at the business end there is less room for ambiguity.