FC1 PJ French, a 2004 graduate of Cedar Springs High School, is aboard the USS Mason, a Navy destroyer recently fired upon off the coast of Yemen.
French is the son of Don and Laura DeLange, of Cedar Springs.
The USS Mason is a Navy destroyer supporting maritime security operations in the Red Sea off Yemen’s southern coast. It was attacked on October 9 and again on October 12. As many as three missiles were shot down by the Mason and splashed down in the water before reaching the ship.
In response to the failed missile strike on the USS Mason, the USS Nitze launched Tomahawk cruise missiles on October 13, destroying three coastal radar sites in Yemen they suspected to be under the control of Houthi forces.
No one was hurt in any of the strikes on the USS Mason, due to the appropriate defensive counter measures. In fact, FC1 French works on the Aegis Weapons System onboard, which is responsible for defense of the ship.
What happens in a scenario where a ship like this is fired on? From a story at http://taskandpurpose.com/us-destroyer-responds-someone-shoots/ there are four steps:
Step one: Missile inbound.
Someone in the combat information center will notice a swiftly moving contact on the radar screen. The first person to detect the missile will yell out, “Vampire inbound!” along with some proprietary Navy information to make sure folks know the situation.
Step two: Confirm it’s a missile.
The ship has onboard sensors along with any information from units in and around the area of operations. Sailors in the combat information center will confirm that it’s a missile and not a radar anomaly or some other phenomena.
Step three: shoot that vampire down.
Once they have confirmed that an anti-ship missile is headed toward the ship, it’s time to take action. Sailors from Combat Fire Control division are responsible for the operations and maintenance of the weapons systems and will likely be the ones taking action. Each class of ship has multiple close, medium, and long-range weapons and countermeasures to address the threat. In the case of the Mason, they used Standard Missile 2 (SM-2) and Enhanced Sea Sparrow Missiles to “splash” the missiles. The SM-2 and ESSM are medium range missiles stored in the ship’s Vertical Launch System cells, along with Tomahawks and other weapon systems. ESSMs are unique in that each VLS cell can hold 4 of the missiles, meaning Navy ships can hold several to protect themselves or the units around them.
If the missiles made it through those defenses, or were fired closer, the shipboard Phalanx Close-In Weapons System—also known as the CIWS (pronounced “sea-wiz”)—would engage it. The CIWS looks like a really excited R2-D2 and terrifies helicopter pilots all over the Navy, and for good reason. CIWS shoots upwards of 4,500 rounds per minute, creating a wall of tungsten in front of an incoming contact, and can be operated fully autonomously. When all of the weapons and countermeasure systems are combined, a U.S. Navy warship is basically Skynet.
Step four: Maintain readiness and evaluate further action.
Okay, so the warship has shot down a couple of incoming missiles and everyone is on high alert. The folks who were watching movies, sleeping, eating, or otherwise engaged heard the weapons systems being employed and hauled butt to their respective command and control stations to find out the latest info on the situation. The engineering team will ensure that all systems are online and that peak readiness is achieved. The commanding officer and executive officer are split between the combat information center and the pilot house, ready to continue the fight. The whole ship is ready and are hoping for a shot at lobbing the retaliatory Tomahawk missiles at whatever targets fit the appropriate response.
The Post is glad to hear that FC1 French and his shipmates were not injured, and we appreciate how he is serving his country. French graduated from the Navy in Chicago in 2010, and according to his mom, Laura, PJ has another three years to serve on his current tour of duty.