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.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
DaiRR's picture

You can bet Raytheon is all over this miss.  Patriot missile system designed in late 60's, fielded in the '70s, with lots of improvements and variants since.  Saudis are buying 600 more Patriots to replace their old and outdated ones.  Article doesn't specificially say which model(s) were fired at the Houthi Iranian missile.

silverer's picture

Kim is winning.

Princess Luna's picture

It doesn't matter how amazing a system designed by white people is, if it's run by sand people and/or dindu's.  Hence why white society is falling apart, and why the sand people can't shoot down a missle even after firing at it 5 TIMES with state of the art equipment designed by white people.

XWeatherman's picture

Meanwhile, the Russian anti-missle system in Syria has been tested by Israel, who found out that it works very well.

OKUSA's picture

Sounds an awful lot like my old Chevy, failure to launch.

SmittyinLA's picture

" the missile traveled about 600 miles"

Hmmm, using GPS for navigation?

I wonder if they have contiguous cell cover in the flight area?

Joiningupthedots's picture

Patriot is VERY old in technology terms so probably never worked efficiently.

Still it lets the Drumf bang his gums.

Over 60% of his cruise missile attack on Syria FAILED.

That says it all????

I am Groot's picture

Since when did General Motors start making missiles ?

I am Groot's picture

Guess who the employee of the year is at Raytheon................Wiley Coyote !

SHADEWELL's picture

I say comrade Tyler...have to love the intentionally deceptive headline...maaking an apparent definitive pronouncement of failure of a US made missle intercept/

Yet when we read the post

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. 

"suggests" is hardly definitive, and citing the New York Times is akin to reading useless propaganda intended to brainwash

Good luck comrade...you are sure going to need it

onmail1's picture

It means Yemen is winning

Welcome Yemen with Iran, Syria, Lebanon & Shia Iraq

I urge all these countries to throw out Americans & euroPeons

 

anti-republocrat's picture

Nobody makes what we make....

Really?  I make it almost every day, then flush it.

musimann's picture

Trump shows his stupidity again. Like watching him make an ass out of himself with the Coast guard bragging about the F35. You know "just like in the movies". Its a movie moron........not reality. Equally amusing was him talking to the CG about jets. What an idiot.

The Gladiator's picture

Annnnnnnnd,every ass hole in Japan and South Korea just tightened up to the point of ripping the toilet paper out of the hands of the wiper. ALL THAT MONEY and this is the protection they bought? MIC one, foolish customers zero.

Drop-Hammer's picture

What military vibrant diversity is operating the missiles.  Probably firing them sideways.