USS Mason plays key role in ensuring maritime security in Middle East


The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer has been protecting and aiding ships attacked by Yemen's Iran-backed Houthis in the Red Sea to ensure maritime security in the strategic waterway.

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The USS Mason destroyer is playing a key role in the US Navy's efforts to secure trade routes in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

The Mason, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, on December 13 was responding to a distress call from the Marshall Islands-flagged tanker Ardmore Encounter when it shot down an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) launched from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen, US Central Command (CENTCOM) said in a statement.

The Iran-backed Houthis first attempted to board the tanker via skiffs in the southern Red Sea before firing a pair of missiles that missed, the statement added.

No casualties were reported and no US Navy ships were in the vicinity at the time, according to CENTCOM.

The guided-missile destroyer USS Mason, front, can be seen under way alongside the Japanese Murasame-class destroyer JS Akebono in the Gulf of Aden on November 25. [US Navy]
The guided-missile destroyer USS Mason, front, can be seen under way alongside the Japanese Murasame-class destroyer JS Akebono in the Gulf of Aden on November 25. [US Navy]

The Mason took down the drone "headed in the direction of the ship" in an act of self defense, a defense official told Navy Times.

"At the time of the shoot down, the Mason was responding to reports that a commercial oil tanker was under attack from suspected Houthi forces," the official said. "We are not currently aware of any injuries to personnel or damage to vessels."

The incident is the latest in which US warships in the Middle East have intercepted air drones and missiles and assisted commercial ships.

Earlier on December 11, the Mason provided aid to the Norwegian-flagged oil and chemical tanker Strinda after an anti-ship cruise missile hit it while passing through the Bab al-Mandeb strait, leading to a fire and damage aboard the vessel.

The Mason also shot down a drone on December 6, just days after the Carney, another Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, shot down multiple drones as several merchant ships came under attack by missiles fired from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen.

The Mason, with help from allied ships, additionally responded to a distress call from a commercial tanker, the Central Park, in the Gulf of Aden that had been seized by armed individuals, the Pentagon said in a statement November 26.

After boarding the ship, the armed assailants attempted to access the cabin, but the crew were able to lock themselves in a safe area, Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said.

The assailants fled in a small boat after US guided missile destroyer USS Mason, allied ships and associated aircraft responded and demanded the vessel's release, he said.

Three Chinese naval vessels ignored repeated distress calls from the Central Park after it came under attack, according to the Pentagon.

"Supposedly, those ships are there as part of a counter-piracy mission, but they did not respond," Ryder said.

Two ballistic missiles were fired from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen towards the general direction of the Mason and Central Park, but they landed about 10 nautical miles (18.5km) away, the statement added.

Ensuring security

The USS Mason is part of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group, which departed in October for a scheduled deployment and transited the Strait of Hormuz into the Arabian Gulf last month.

Since then, the Mason has been an integral part of the US Navy's efforts to ensure the security of key trade routes in the region and to support vessels in need.

The Mason is a member of the newly redesigned Arleigh Burke Flight IIA sub-class of destroyers reconfigured to better adapt to littoral warfare.

Employing all-steel construction, Flight IIA destroyers host crews of about 330 sailors and measure 509.5 feet (155.29 meters) long.

The USS Mason is outfitted with side-by-side helicopter hangars housing two Seahawk SH-60 helicopters and possesses an enlarged flight deck.

Other Flight IIA enhancements include organic mine hunting and area theater ballistic missile defense.

Flight IIA destroyers center on the integrated Aegis Weapon System, which consists of advanced Anti-Air Warfare and Anti-Submarine Warfare systems as well as the all-weather, long-range Tomahawk Weapon System, which can conduct land attacks.

The Mason is equipped with Mk 41 Vertical Launch Systems for a total of 96 cells capable of defeating ballistic missiles, as well as air, sea and subsea threats.

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