Admiral: Red Sea Crisis Shows Need for Low-Cost Air Defense

Destroyer USS Gravely launches an air defense missile at a Houthi aerial threat (U.S. Navy file image)
Destroyer USS Gravely launches an air defense missile at a Houthi aerial threat (U.S. Navy file image)

Published May 15, 2024 6:16 PM by U.S. Department of Defense


[By David Vergun, DOD News]

Navy vessels have been plying the Red Sea since December as part of Operation Prosperity Guardian, a U.S.-led, multinational coalition established to counter attacks by Houthi terrorists on merchant and naval vessels.

"Our forces are engaged in the Red Sea right now [in a way] we've not seen since probably World War II. I mean, those ships are operating inside weapon engagement zones. They have to be prepared on a moment's notice to conduct engagements, and they have to get it right every single time," said Navy Rear Adm. Fred Pyle, director of the Surface Warfare Division, at a Center for Strategic and International Studies event yesterday. 

"I could not be more proud of how those sailors are performing over the last six months and also how the systems are performing, given what they're operating in," he said. 

They're engaging enemy antiship cruise and ballistic missiles, as well as unmanned systems, Pyle said, while also navigating through waters at night where merchant vessels are steaming. 

The integrated air- and missile-defense on these ships provides a layered defense distant, close in, and in between, he said, adding that aircraft from the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier are also playing a vital role in the mission. 

Expensive missiles are being shot at much cheaper drones, the admiral acknowledged. 

"Should we find a more cost-effective way of downing say, an inexpensive drone? Absolutely. And we're working towards that," he said, adding that there are solutions being considered, but he couldn't get into more detail because of the classified nature of that effort. 

Allies and partners are a vital part of the effort. More than 24 nations are supporting Operation Prosperity Guardian, he noted. 

"It's always good to have an international face on an effort where you're trying to maintain the flow of global commerce," he said. 

Many months of training have paid off for this mission, particularly in utilizing virtual, live and constructive simulations, Pyle said. 

The admiral said that two key lessons learned from the conflicts in the Red Sea and Ukraine are that the services need to increase their munitions stocks and increase the means to resupply anywhere in the world.  

"We're very focused on getting our munitions inventories increased," he said. "We're in a sustainable position right now, given what we're seeing in the Red Sea."

This appears courtesy of DOD News and may be found in its original form here.

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.