Initial reports from Saudi Arabia in November claimed that its military, using a U.S.-made Patriot anti-missile system, intercepted an incoming ballistic missile fired by Houthi rebel forces in neighboring Yemen as it targeted the international airport in Riyadh.
But subsequent analyses by a group of missile experts reveals that in fact, the Saudi system may have failed to interdict the incoming target. While the missile body landed in downtown Riyadh, the warhead appeared to sail over Saudi defenses and nearly struck the airport.
It reportedly landed so close to the airport that it caused several passengers to jump out of their seats in the terminal.
Instead of being intercepted by the U.S.-made system, experts are suggesting that the missile, believed to have been supplied to the Houthis by Iran, simply came apart due to its sheer speed and force.
“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.”
Officials believe the missile was a Scud variant called Burqan-2, used throughout the Middle East. It has a range of about 600 miles.
Videos posted on social media show parts of the missile that fell in downtown Riyadh. One video appears to show the Saudis firing five times at the incoming warhead.
“You shoot five times at this missile and they all miss? That’s shocking,” said Laura Grego, a missile expert at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “That’s shocking because this system is supposed to work.” [source]
(Analyst comment: While the two scenarios seem unrelated, understand this: If the American Patriot system and other anti-missile defense systems are still as unreliable as they were during the first Gulf War, as appears to be the case, that will only add pressure on the Trump administration to preemptively strike North Korea as Pyongyang continues to advance its own ballistic missile program. After all, if there is no certainty our systems can intercept incoming nuclear-tipped ICBMs, then the only option for North Korea may be a preemptive strike.)
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