YOKOSUKA, Japan – The guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam successfully intercepted an incoming Houthi missile in the Red Sea on June 6, 2022, marking the first use of the Navy’s advanced Phalanx Close-In Weapon System (CIWS) in this conflict. The automated Phalanx system, mounted on the USS Gravely, fired at a cruise missile that approached within 1 mile of the ship, mere seconds from impact. This incident demonstrates the effectiveness of the Phalanx CIWS as the Navy’s “last line of defense” against close-in threats at sea.
Manufactured by Raytheon, the Phalanx weapon system is a rapid-fire, radar-guided gun capable of firing up to 4,500 20-millimeter rounds per minute. It is designed to engage anti-ship missiles and other close-in threats, providing critical protection for US warships. Despite the successful interception of the Houthi missile, concerns have been raised over the proximity of the threat to the US warship. Experts have pointed out that even when destroyed, incoming missiles can still pose a danger due to the resulting debris.
The USS Gravely’s encounter with the Houthi missile highlights the ongoing tensions in the Red Sea, where Iran-backed Houthi forces continue to target commercial shipping and warships. In response, US forces have engaged in multiple incidents, including the interception of anti-ship missiles and drones. Additionally, two ballistic missiles launched from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen narrowly missed their intended targets in the Red Sea. These attacks are part of a series of incidents involving Iranian proxy groups in Yemen, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq, escalating since the war in Gaza last October.
The US is closely monitoring Iran’s involvement and potential escalation of proxy attacks. Some officials have expressed concerns that Iran’s proxies may be exceeding their boundaries, posing a significant risk of disrupting the global economy and escalating towards a direct confrontation. While there are signs that Iran is growing worried about the actions of its proxies, some current and former US officials remain skeptical about the potential change in tactics. Despite the ongoing challenges, the Phalanx CIWS continues to be a critical defensive asset for the US Navy and its allies, underscoring the importance of maintaining robust maritime defenses in the region.