Joe Biden, amidst his mental confusion, must think he is John McCain reincarnated. I bet he is humming, “Bomb, Bomb, Bomb; Bomb, Bomb Iran.” You know how it is: Iranians, Yemenis, they all look alike. While the bombs are causing some damage in Yemen, Yemen has seen it before and is unfazed. In fact, the bombing appears to be strengthening Yemen’s resolve to continue its blockade of the Red Sea.
The United States does not have enough bombs to force Yemen to surrender. Why? Yemen’s rocket and missile force is mobile. They can move dozens of missiles at the same time in different directions, which then forces the United States, notwithstanding robust Intelligence Surveillance and Reconaissance (ISR), to find the needles in the haystack that is Yemen.
The U.S. can kill and destroy some, but not all.
But that is not the big problem. The U.S. Navy does not have the ability to sustain its presence off the coast of Yemen.
My friend, Stephen Bryen, has written his usual excellent article detailing the problem:
- The first answer relates to the number of missiles aboard a ship. U.S. ships are relying on SM-2 missiles, part of the AEGIS system. One expert estimates the number available as follows:
- “The [AEGIS] destroyers have a complement of 96 VLS cells, while the [Ticonderoga class] cruisers have 122. …However, they need to fit a mixture of weaponry in those cells so they can’t all be used for air defense. This includes:
- ESSM (quad packed into a single cell)
- SM-2 (and its newer counterpart the SM-6)
- Tomahawk cruise missiles
- ASROC anti-submarine missile
- SM-3 anti-ballistic missile
- The exact ratio of these weapons is largely dependent on the mission and the possible threats faced. However, at least 200 ESSM and another 100 or so SM-2 or SM-6 seems like a fair guess. Maybe a bit more.”
- In short, each of the AEGIS has around 100 missiles.
- The British Sea Viper air defense system is the main defense system HMS Diamond relied on to fire at Houthi drones and missiles. “Type 45 Destroyers, also known as Daring-class destroyers, are specifically designed around the Sea Viper (PAAMS) air-defence system. Each Type 45 destroyer is equipped with a 48-cell A50 Sylver Vertical Launching System. This system is designed to accommodate a mix of up to 48 Aster 15 and Aster 30 missiles.”
- Neither the US nor the British ships can be reprovisioned at sea, so they have a limited ability to “stay in the fight” if it continues for any length of time.
There you have it. Yemen can launch a hundred drones and missiles at U.S. ships and the destroyer escorts will exhaust their supply of air defense missiles. In the 1970s the U.S. Navy had ship tenders that could pull alongside a destroyer and resupply it. Not today. The Vertical Launch Systems have to be reloaded in a port. That means the destroyers will have to sail to Dubai, which means the U.S. aircraft carrier they are accompanying will have to follow because it relies on them for protection from ballistic and cruise missiles.
Here is the bottom line: If you are going to get into a gun fight, you better have enough ammunition on hand to finish it. Only we are not talking about having a million rounds of 9mm pistol ammunition.
The missiles the Aegis system uses are very expensive. Here’s Stephen’s take:
“One needs to add that using missile defense is very expensive. Each SM-2 missile costs $2.1 million each. Sea Viper, which can either be an Aster 15 or Aster 30 costs either £1m to £2m a time ($1.25 million to $2.5 million). Nor does this take into account the challenge of replacing these missiles, once expended. It not only will be more expensive, but could take years of production time.”
Yemen is showing how a so-called third-rate military can effectively bankrupt the naval power of a “Superpower.” The neo-cons urging Biden to attack Iran are math-challenged. Iran has more missiles, drones and rockets than Yemen. If little Yemen is doing this to the U.S., just imagine the havoc Iran could cause.
Washington is like the degenerate gambler who is playing a losing game of blackjack. Instead of accepting his losses, Joe Biden seems intent on doubling down and destroying the reputation of the U.S. Navy as the most powerful force in the world. I suspect the Russians and Chinese are enjoying some heaping buckets of buttered popcorn as they watch this spectacle of national suicide.
[This article was originally published at Sonar21.com]
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About the Author
Larry C. Johnson is a veteran of the CIA and the State Department’s Office of Counter Terrorism.
He is the founder and managing partner of BERG Associates, which was established in 1998. Larry provided training to the U.S. Military’s Special Operations community for 24 years. He has been vilified by both the Right and Left.