Damage control after a missile or drone attack and the subsequent post-blast investigations are dangerous work, made easier by training. Point One’s core philosophy—train hard, fight easy— is the driving force behind the creation of innovative and relevant, realistic training aids that reflect modern-day threats and geopolitical situations. Shipboard damage control training for a post-attack scenario was the impetus for the development of a cruise missile trainer. However, as the recent attack involving Iranian cruise missiles shows, there are more targets than just ships about which to be concerned.
The chaotic scene after an attack in the early hours of September 14, 2019, when the Saudi Aramco oil processing facility and the state’s second-largest oil field were attacked by a combination of 25 drones and cruise missiles, was met head-on by emergency responders that battled the subsequent fires for seven hours before they emerged victorious1. The attack shut down 5.7 million barrels per day of production or 60% of Saudi Arabia’s oil production and sent global oil prices surging 15%2.
The tradeoff between the moderate amount of money invested in the attack, maybe several million dollars, versus the cost of the damage done and the effect it had on world oil markets—many billions of dollars-worth, make this an extremely successful attack. No other energy sector has been struck so effectively since the U.S. coalition’s precision bombing of Iraq in 19913.
The attack was carried out with 18 drones, identified by Saudi Ministry of Defense officials as Iranian “Delta Wave UAVs”, equipped with non-explosive, kinetic warheads and seven land-attack cruise missiles, reported to be Ya Ali LACMs, but more likely were Quds-1 missiles (both developed by Iran)4 featuring conventional high-explosive warheads3, three of which did not reach their targets. All of the impacts occurred right under the nose of Saudi Arabia’s air defense systems5, which are more geared toward defense against a ballistic threat versus relatively low-level, slow-moving targets such as those presented by cruise missiles and drones.
Since the 1980s, Iran has pursued a robust anti-ship missile capability, which is now evidenced in their deployment and development of the Noor missile and its derivatives, the Qader and the Qadir. In 2001, Iran procured through the Ukrainian black market a dozen Kh-55 cruise missiles and has worked since to reverse engineer them as well as develop an organic cruise missile capability6.
Although attribution of the Saudi Aramco attack has not been finalized, its tremendous success lends credence to this as a viable asymmetric strategy in the future.
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- Featured image from https://www.wsj.com/video/what-we-know-about-the-drone-and-missile-strikes-in-saudi-arabia/4FCE7383-1EA8-42C8-AD35-2755AD6532F4.html