USN DDG shoots down uncrewed system in Red Sea

USS Thomas Hudner
The US Navy Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Thomas Hudner – pictured sailing in the Atlantic Ocean in March 2023 – shot down a drone target while operating in the Red Sea on 15 November.

An US Navy (USN) guided-missile destroyer (DDG) shot down an uncrewed system that came close to the ship, the US Department of Defense (DoD) reported on 15 November.

The USN DDG 51 Flight IIA Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Thomas Hudner was sailing in the Red Sea on 15 November when the incident occurred.

“While transiting the international waters of the Red Sea, the crew … engaged a drone that originated from Yemen and was heading in the direction of the ship,” the DoD said, in a statement. “Hudner’s crew engaged and shot down the drone to ensure the safety of US personnel. There were no US casualties or any damage to the ship.”

Thomas Hudner is deployed to the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East region as part of the USS Gerald R. Ford carrier strike group (CSG).

According to US officials cited in media reports, Thomas Hudner may not have been the apparent target of the attack but the crew responded when the inbound system came close enough to the destroyer.

The core air-defence capabilities of Flight IIA Arleigh Burke destroyers are: the Raytheon Standard Missile (SM)-2 and SM-6 surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems; and the Raytheon RIM-162A/B Evolved SeaSparrow Missile (ESSM) Block I SAM system. It has not been confirmed, however, what system was employed by the ship used to destroy the threat.

Recent years have seen a regular pattern of attacks on USN ships, and other shipping, sailing off the Yemeni coast, in Gulf of Aden, Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, and Red Sea waters. However, this is the second incident in recent weeks where a USN ship has been required to respond and shoot down an air-based threat. On 19 October, the Flight I Arleigh Burke DDG USS Carney shot down three land-attack missiles and several uncrewed systems while sailing off Yemen in the Red Sea. Carney used its SM-2 capability, according to reports.

by Dr. Lee Willett