Saudi Arabia Shoots Down a Scud? June 6, 2015.

Saudi Arabia is claiming that it used two Patriot missiles to shoot down a Scud ballistic missile launched from Yemen early in the morning of June 6. The Patriot battery was likely located at the King Khalid Air Force Base, which is about 100 km from the nearest point in Yemen. It seems likely that either the Airbase or the nearby city of Khamis Mushait was target of the attack. If this report is correct (and this seems like a very big if), I believe this would make Saudi Arabia only the second or third country to claim to have shot down a ballistic missile with a range as long as a Scud (a baseline Scud has a range of about 300 km) in an actual attack, and possibly the only one to actually successfully do so.

To expand a bit on the last point: As far as I know the only use of a ballistic missile defense against missiles with Scud-class range or longer was in the 1991 Gulf War.  Although missile defenses were also used in the 2003 Gulf War, the targets were apparently shorter-range missiles.  Similarly with Israel’s experience with Iron Dome, which has only involved much shorter range rockets.

In the 1991 Gulf War, U.S. and Israeli Patriot batteries engaged (attempted to intercept) 44 extended-range (600 km) Scuds fired at Saudi Arabia and Israel (there was also a battery from the Netherlands deployed in Israel, but it did attempt an intercept).  Although the U.S. Army initially claimed success rates as high as 96%, in face of criticism it eventually retreated to a claim of 61% success, which, as far as I know, is still its current claim.  However, publicly available data conclusively showed that Patriot’s actual success rate in destroying the Scuds was much lower, and quite possibly was zero.

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2 Comments

  1. j_kies

     /  June 12, 2015

    In my understanding the Patriot engagement success would be unusual if not unique.

    Forensic data on Scud pre-post engagement trajectories and forensic analysis on the Scud carcass on the ground would be rather telling. Those items should be accessible to the operators and the locals. Failure to provide such forensics grossly degrades the credibility of such claims.

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