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Houthi Missile Nearly Hits US Warship

Updated on February 9, 2024
The Phalanx last line of defense
The Phalanx last line of defense

With few reports in the news of the near hit from a Houthi missile upon the USS Gravely patrolling in the Red Sea in early February, the USN is investigating this event.

The significance is not only the outcome had the missile impacted the warship causing heavy destruction or sinking, but the US would have had to retaliate even more forceful. The event was almost marked as it was the first time the USN's "last line of defense" Phalanx system had been engaged in combat.

The Phalanx Close-In Weapon System (CIWS) was deployed by Navy destroyer the USS Gravely Tuesday night against what US officials said was a cruise missile that got as near as 1 mile to the ship – with just seconds from impact! This system features Gatling guns that can fire up to 4,500 20-millimeter rounds a minute at very close ranges in automated control. It is radar controlled.

The USS Gravely was indeed in grave danger with just seconds from doom. Somehow, the missile was missed at the usual range these missiles are destroyed, some 8 miles from the ship. Missiles at this range are destroyed with the ships' own missiles like the Sea Sparrow.

The Houthi missile was traveling at about 600 mph (965 kph), leaving just 4 seconds for the US warship to destroy it with a 2- to 3-second burst of machine gun fire by the Gravely’s Phalanx system. it was too close for comfort. Since its introduction in 1980, it is now installed on all US Navy surface ships.

While the system saved the USS Gravely this time, the Houthis are homing in their skills at targeting USN ships or tankers. After this near hit, more missiles and even ballistic missiles were fired by them with the support of Iran, who is supplying them.

One possibility of why the Gravely missed this incoming missile at the usual distance of 8 miles away is the detection systems failed due to the sheer number of missiles directed at the USN ship. It is well known from USN testing that if a ship is targeted with more than 7 cruise missiles the possibility of one getting through increases greatly. Radar detection and directing fire at incoming missiles going this fast can overwhelm the human element and how effective the targeting is. Human error can and does happen in combat with just seconds to respond.

Another possibility is that the detection systems failed for some reason to detect and track all incoming missiles and one got through to the last line of defense. In any case, it was a near hit. It would have greatly escalated the war in the Red Sea area or even with Iran.


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