US fighter jets, destroyers, and Patriot missiles shot down loads of Iranian weapons to shield Israel from an unprecedented attack

  • Iran launched a barrage of munitions at Israel in an unprecedented attack over the weekend.

  • The US used fighter jets, Patriot missiles, and guided-missile destroyers to help thwart the attack.

  • Israel said that it, with support from its partners, intercepted 99% of missiles and drones.

The US helped thwart Iran's unprecedented attack on Israel over the weekend, using F-15s and F-16s, missiles from a Patriot air-defense system, and two US Navy destroyers in the Mediterranean.

Iran and allied militias in Yemen launched a barrage of 120 ballistic missiles, 30 cruise missiles, and 170 attack drones on Israel in a massive escalation of the Middle East crisis over the weekend.

Israeli officials said the US and allied forces from the UK, France, and Jordan, with support from Israel's Iron Dome and Arrow-3 systems, intercepted 99% of Iran's munitions.

However, US officials told CBS News and The Wall Street Journal that about half of Iran's ballistic missiles malfunctioned and failed to launch.

F-15E Strike Eagles

the undercarriage of a US Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle
A US Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle from the 335 Fighter Squadron prepares to land after flying a training sortie.US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jason Robertson/released

Two squadrons of F-15E Strike Eagles with the US Air Force helped shoot down about 70 attack drones launched by Iran. The dual-role fighter jets were operated by fighter pilots in the 494th Fighter Squadron from and 335th Fighter Squadrons

President Joe Biden spoke with members of the USAF fighter squadrons in a call after the failed Iranian attack, commending the Air Force pilots for their "exceptional airmanship and skill in defending Israel."

"Both these squadrons are incredible, absolutely incredible," Biden said in a clip of the call shared on X. "You made an enormous difference, potentially saving a lot of lives. Thanks to extraordinary skill, the United States helped Israel take down nearly all those incoming missiles. You're remarkable."

Lt. Col. Curtis Culver, 494th Fighter Squadron Commander, thanked the president in the call, saying "we're mighty proud to have our part in that contribution, sir."

F-16 Fighting Falcons

An F-16C Fighting Falcon fighter jet prepares to land
An F-16C Fighting Falcon fighter jet assigned to the 119th Fighter Squadron prepares to land at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dwane R. Young

A fleet of F-16s were also involved in downing the attack drones and missiles headed for targets in Israel, a US official told Air and Space Forces Magazine.

It wasn't immediately clear if the F-16s involved in the response were from the US Air Force or Israel Defense Forces, as Israel is the largest operator of F-16s outside of the US.

The multi-role fighter, which turned 50 this year, is built for engaging in air-to-air and air-to-ground combat, allowing it to locate and intercept targets in all-weather conditions.

Patriot missile system

The Army test fires a Patriot missile.
The Army test fires a Patriot missile.US Army Security Assistance Command

At least one ballistic missile launched by Iran was downed by a US Army Patriot battery near Erbil, Iraq.

The Patriot defense system is a mobile missile interceptor that can reach aerial targets up to 66,000 feet. The Patriot can detect, track, and intercept drones, cruise missiles, and ballistic missiles.

However, the prized defense system does come with a high price tag, totaling $1.1 billion — about $400 million for a battery and about $690 million for the missiles — according to a report by the Congressional Research Service.

Last November, The Wall Street Journal reported the US sent more of the surface-to-air missile systems to positions across the Middle East in response to attacks on American forces stationed in Iraq and Syria by Iran-backed militia groups.

USS Arleigh Burke

The guided-missile destroyer USS Arleigh Burke (DDG 51) launches Tomahawk cruise missiles.
The guided-missile destroyer USS Arleigh Burke (DDG 51) launches Tomahawk cruise missiles.Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Carlos M. Vazquez II/US Navy via Getty Images

USS Arleigh Burke, a US Navy guided-missile destroyer and lead ship of its class, was one of two warships that shot down four to six Iranian-launched ballistic missiles.

The Arleigh Burke has been forward deployed to Rota, Spain, and was sailing in the Mediterranean Sea when Iran launched munitions at Israel. The 509-feet-long warship features advanced radar and sonar systems to detect and engage targets on, above, and below the water's surface.

The first-in-class US warship is equipped with the Navy's "most modern surface combat system," the Aegis Combat System. With the Aegis system, the Arleigh Burke is equipped with Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) ballistic missile interceptors, among others, that can be launched from a vertical launching system (VLS).

USS Carney

Navy destroyer USS Carney the Suez Canal
US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Carney in the Suez Canal on Oct. 18, 2023.US Navy/MCS2 Aaron Lau

USS Carney, another Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, was operating in the Mediterranean Sea after making a port visit in Sicily last week when the attack happened.

Also equipped with the Aegis Combat System and accompanying interceptor missiles, the warship assisted in downing the Iranian-launched ballistic missiles.

Like it's sister ship, the Carney is also fitted with a multi-function, 3D air search radar and Phalanx Close-In Weapon System (CIWS), an automated, rapid-fire gun capable of engaging with anti-ship missiles and other close-in threats.

The Carney has also played a key role in shooting down threats launched by Iran-backed Houthis on commercial shipping vessels in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. The warship is one of four other guided-missile destroyers accompanying USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, a nuclear-powered Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, that has been very active in the region in recent months.

Back in December, the US Navy highlighted USS Carney's hot streak in a cheeky game-day video ahead of the Army-Navy football game, saying that the destroyer was undefeated by a margin of 22-0 against the missiles and drones launched by the Houthis.

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