Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Trumpanzee Was Lying About Shooting Down The Missile Yemen Shot At Riyadh


My pal Roland teaches all day in an intense inner-city school. He's very focused on his kids and his work. When his day is done and he's getting ready to drive home, he often texts me something to the effect of "Did Trump have a bad day?" or "Did he blow up the world yet?" We travel a lot-- often to off the beaten track places like Timbuktu, Yangon, Tirane, Sidi Ifni, Abu Simbel. These days, I'd rather go to Paris, Bali or Florence again. He's always suggesting Ulan Bator, Mandalay or Calcutta. Lately he's been lobbying for Korea. I never wanted to go there but I've been fending him off with the current volatile political situation and the chances of it being ground zero in an escalation been Señor Trumpanzee and Kim Jong Un. Roland's answer-- and his feeling of safety in L.A.-- is that "we" can shoot down their missiles. Like many Americans, he was reassured when the Saudis-- or whomever-- shot down a missile lobbed their way by the Houthis in Yemen a few weeks back.

Impressive, right? According to the New York Times sources, not really. It was worse than too close for comfort, despite the official line from Señor T and the Saudis. The Patriot missile defense system (which Trump was trying to hawk on the international market while he was bragging about how effective it was). "Our system knocked the missile out of the air. That’s how good we are. Nobody makes what we make, and now we’re selling it all over the world," the orange-hued imbecile boasted. He was, as usual, lying.
[A]n analysis of photos and videos of the strike posted to social media suggests that story may be wrong.

Instead, evidence analyzed by a research team of missile experts appears to show the missile’s warhead flew unimpeded over Saudi defenses and nearly hit its target, Riyadh’s airport. The warhead detonated so close to the domestic terminal that customers jumped out of their seats.

Saudi officials did not respond to a request for comment. Some U.S. officials cast doubt on whether the Saudis hit any part of the incoming missile, saying there was no evidence that it had. Instead, they said, the incoming missile body and warhead may have come apart because of its sheer speed and force.

The findings show that the Iranian-backed Houthis, once a ragtag group of rebels, have grown powerful enough to strike major targets in Saudi Arabia, possibly shifting the balance of their years-long war. And they underscore longstanding doubts about missile defense technology, a centerpiece of American and allied national defense strategies, particularly against Iran and North Korea.

“Governments lie about the effectiveness of these systems. Or they’re misinformed,” said Jeffrey Lewis, an analyst who led the research team, which shared its findings with the New York Times. “And that should worry the hell out of us.”

The missile... is believed to be a Burqan-2, a variant of the Scud missile used throughout the Middle East. It traveled about 600 miles.

...Mr. Lewis and the other analysts, based mostly at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, Calif., were skeptical when they heard Saudi Arabia’s claim to have shot it down.

Governments have overstated the effectiveness of missile defenses in the past, including against Scuds. During the first Gulf War, the United States claimed a near-perfect record in shooting down Iraqi variants of the Scud. Subsequent analyses found that nearly all the interceptions had failed.

Had it failed in Riyadh as well? The researchers scraped social media for anything posted in that area and time frame, looking for clues.

Just as the Saudis fired off missile defenses, debris began to fall in downtown Riyadh. Video posted on social media captured one particularly large section, which landed in a parking lot next to the Ibn Khaldun School.

Other videos show scraps that fell at a handful of other locations clustered in a roughly 500-yard area along a highway.

Saudi officials said the debris, which appears to belong to a downed Burqan-2, showed a successful shootdown. But an analysis of the debris shows that the warhead components-- the part of the missile that carries the explosives-- were missing.

The missing warhead signaled something important to the analysts: that the missile may have evaded Saudi defenses.

The missile, in order to survive the stresses of a roughly 600 mile flight, was almost certainly designed to separate into two pieces once near its target. The tube, which propels the missile for most of its trajectory, falls away. The warhead, smaller and harder to hit, continues toward the target.

This would explain why the debris in Riyadh only appears to consist of the rear tube. And it suggests that the Saudis may have missed the missile, or only hit the tube after it had separated and begun to fall uselessly toward earth.

Some U.S. officials said there was no evidence the Saudis had hit the missile. Instead, the debris may have broken up under the pressures of flight. What the Saudis presented as evidence of their successful interception may have simply been the missile ejecting its tube as intended.

At around 9 p.m., about the same time debris crashed in Riyadh, a loud bang shook the domestic terminal at Riyadh’s King Khalid International Airport.

“There was an explosion at the airport,” a man said in a video taken moments after the bang. He and others rushed to the windows as emergency vehicles streamed onto the runway.

Another video, taken from the tarmac, shows the emergency vehicles at the end of the runway. Just beyond them is a plume of smoke, confirming the blast and indicating a likely point of impact.

A Houthi spokesman said the missile had targeted the airport.

There’s another reason the analysts think the warhead flew past the missile defenses. They located the Patriot batteries that fired on the missile, shown in this video, and found that the warhead traveled well over the top of them.

Saudi officials have said that some debris from the intercepted missile landed at the airport. But it is difficult to imagine how one errant piece could fly 12 miles beyond the rest of the debris, or why it would detonate on impact.

Imagery of the emergency response and a plume of smoke also reveal information about the nature of the impact.

A photo of the plume taken from a different location on the tarmac appears consistent with plumes produced by similar missiles, suggesting the explosion was not an errant piece of debris or an unrelated incident.

By identifying buildings in the photo and video, Mr. Lewis’s team was able to locate the spots from which the images were taken, revealing the precise location of the plume: a few hundred yards off of runway 33R, and about a kilometer from the crowded domestic terminal.

The blast was small, and satellite imagery of the airport taken immediately before and after the blast is not detailed enough to capture the crater from the impact, the analysts said.

But it does show ground damage from the emergency vehicles, supporting the finding that the warhead hit just off the runway.

While the Houthis missed their target, Mr. Lewis said, they got close enough to show that their missiles can reach it and can evade Saudi defenses. “A kilometer is a pretty normal miss rate for a Scud,” he said.

Even the Houthis may not have realized their success, Mr. Lewis said. Unless they had intelligence sources at the airport, they would have little reason to doubt official reports.

“The Houthis got very close to creaming that airport,” he said.

Laura Grego, a missile expert at the Union of Concerned Scientists, expressed alarm that Saudi defense batteries had fired five times at the incoming missile.

"You shoot five times at this missile and they all miss? That's shocking,” she said. “That's shocking because this system is supposed to work.”
War is bad for everyone... except the guys who make and sell the weapons. Hasn't it always been that way?

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