The USS Carney, Al-Tanf garrison and Al Asad airbase have been busy defending multiple attacks in the past few days.
This last week was quite busy for U.S. forces in the Middle East, with drone attacks against facilities in Syria and Iraq and a destroyer countering cruise missiles and drones in the Red Sea. The attacks, happened on Oct.17, 18 and 19, 2023, were successfully stopped, according to the official statements, with only minor injuries to the personnel. However, a contractor suffered a cardiac arrest while sheltering and passed away.
Let’s go in order.
The first attacks, on Oct.17, were directed at two US bases in Iraq, Bashur Air Base in the north of the country and Al Asad Air Base in the west. The former was attacked by a single drone which was intercepted and destroyed without injuries or damage, while the latter was attacked by two drones which were intercepted, resulting in one being destroyed and the second one damaged. The episode at Al Asad caused minor injuries to Coalition Forces, said the statement.
On the next day, early warning systems indicated a possible threat approaching Al Asad and base personnel sheltered in place as a protective measure. Although no attack occurred, a US civilian contractor suffered a cardiac episode while sheltering and passed away shortly thereafter. Al-Tanf garrison in Syria was also targeted by two drones, of which one was successfully engaged and destroyed, while the other drone impacted the base resulting in minor injuries to Coalition Forces.
Officials did not disclose details about the origin of the drone attacks, however Iranian-backed militias in Iraq have threatened to attack US forces because of their support for Israel. The Associated Press reported that two militias claimed responsibility for the attacks, threatening to attack again should the United States intervene in the Israel-Hamas war.
“This is an uptick in terms of the types of drone activity we’ve seen in Iraq and Syria,” said Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Patrick S. Ryder. “These small-scale attacks are clearly concerning and dangerous.”
On Oct.19, the US thwarted another, prolonged attack, which however was not directed at US facilities. In fact, the Arleigh-Burke class guided missile destroyer USS Carney, which just arrived in the area, shot down four land attack cruise missiles and 19 drones over a nine-hour period. According to Gen. Ryder’s statement, the weapons were launched by Houthi forces in Yemen and heading north along the Red Sea, potentially towards targets in Israel.
“This action was a demonstration of the integrated air and missile defense architecture that we have built in the Middle East and that we are prepared to utilize whenever necessary to protect our partners and our interests in this important region,” said Gen. Ryder. “There were no casualties to U.S. forces and none that we know of to any civilians on the ground”.
USNI News reports that an early incident assessment said the USS Carney fired Standard Missile-2s to down the cruise missiles and drones, and at no time was the ship threatened. Carney is in a configuration unique to destroyers forward deployed in Europe, dubbed “Rota configuration”, equipped with Mk 41 Vertical Launch System which can employ SM-2 and SM-3 surface-to-air missiles, and the SeaRAM (Rolling Airframe Missile) and Close-In Weapon Systems.