The USS Cole is perhaps best known for the dastardly Al-Qaeda attack that left 17 US sailors dead back on October 12th, 2000. Despite the loss and subsequent damage to both hull and spirit, the USS Cole treads water today and is in active service in the Middle East once again. She represents one of the sixty-two total guided-missile destroyers making up the Arleigh Burke-class of warship. She further makes up one of the twenty-one ships as part of the Arleigh Burke "Flight I-Class" (these featuring the 5"/54 turreted main gun). These were followed into service by the Flight II and Flight IIA ships making up the other seven-plus-thirty-four vessels in the Arleigh Burke-class.
USS Cole Flyby
Design of the USS Cole is consistent with the Arleigh Burke-class of warships. She sports a sharp, high-angled bow with her major superstructure covering amidships and a flight deck positioned along her stern. The 5-inch main gun is mounted between the bow and the superstructure with the first of two VLS missile cell collections located between this turret and the superstructure. The second VLS emplacement is set just forward of the flight deck to the rear of the design. The superstructure is identifiable by its large slab, three-sided forward face and maintains the bridge and major sensors, equipment and communications arrays. The mainmast caps the superstructure and slopes towards the stern. As a gasoline-powered vessel, the Cole makes use of twin funnel structures each showcasing stealth-like sharp angles. Each funnel assembly is identified by their black funnel stack exhaust ports that are clearly visible when in profile, protruding ever so slightly. One of the two 20mm Vulcan Phalanx systems sit just ahead and below the bridge while another sits aft overlooking the flight deck and stern VSL missile cells.
Power to Tread
Power to the Cole is supplied by four large General Electric LM2500-30 series gasoline-fueled turbines feeding two shafts a combined 100,000 shaft horsepower. Her top speed is listed at just over 30 knots with a range of 4,400 nautical miles at 20 knots. Her crew complement is made up of 210 enlisted personnel along with 38 Chief Petty Officers and 33 Officers. The Cole maintains a running length of 505 feet with a beam of 66 feet and a draught of 31 feet. Displacement is approximately 6,794 tons light and 8,885 tons full.
How Suite It Is - Protection From All Sides
Her suite of sensors and processing systems include the AN/SPY-1D radar, the AN/SPS-67(V)2 Surface Search Radar, the AN/SPS-73(V)12 Surface Search Radar, the AN/SQS-53C sonar array, the AN/SQR-19 tactical towed sonar array and the AN/SQQ-28 LAMPS III shipboard system. Her countermeasures suite is made up of the AN/SLQ-32(V)2 electronic warfare system, the AN/SLQ-25 Nixie torpedo countermeasures, the MK 36 MOD 12 decoy launching system and the AN/SLQ-39 CHAFF bouys. As part of the Aegis defense system, the USS Cole can use her powerful radar and tracking software to maintain an eye on up to 100 targets at once.
Armed to the Teeth
Armament consists of two individual missile cell collections: the 1 x 29 and 1 x 61 cell Mk 41 vertical launch systems are compatible with RIM-156 SM-2, BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise or RUM-139 VL-ASROC missiles. This potent firepower is augmented by 2 x 25mm chain guns, the aforementioned Mark 45 5/54 inch cannon, 2 x 20mm Phalanx CIWS (Close-In Weapon System) for anti-aircraft/anti-missile defense and up to 4 x 12.7mm heavy machine guns for close-in defense and boarding. The Cole can make use of 2 x Mk 32 triple torpedo launch tubes fitted aft of amidships along the port and starboard sides to combat enemy surface vessels. At any one time, the Cole has access to some 100 missiles of varying types for any given situation at hand. With all this in tow, she makes up the strong arm of the United States Navy on the high seas.
The Cole can make room for up to one Sikorsky-class SH-60 Sea Hawk helicopter along a stern deck helipad.
Key Dates and Upgrades
The USS Cole was constructed by Ingalls Shipbuilding (now part of Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding) of Pascagoula, Mississippi. She was ordered on January 16th, 1991 and laid down on February 28th, 1994. She was launched on February 10th in 1995 and delivered to the United States Navy on March 11th, 1996. Official commissioning occurred on June 8th, 1996. In 2013, the USS Cole is expected to receive upgraded missile capability to the RIM-161 Standard Missile 3 (SM-3) series as part of the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System, a sort of mobile sea-borne protection net against enemy ballistic missiles with direction provided by the US DoD's Missile Defense Agency.
The Yemeni Bombing
While at anchor in the Port of Aden off of the Yemeni coast on October 12th, 2000, the Cole was approached by a small boat loaded with explosives. The boat was part of an Al-Qaeda cell targeting the American ship in Arabian waters. The suicidal crew - in true Al-Qaeda fashion - detonated their payload when alongside the Cole and ripped open a hole in her side, killing seventeen US sailors and wounding a further thirty-nine. While the cowardly act damaged the US Navy vessel and took the lives of some of her crew, her spirit was undaunted and she was still left relatively intact only to be hauled back to the United States for repairs. The Cole spent 14 months to be made whole again and was back in the water on April 19th, 2002, this time headed towards Norfolk, Virginia. She would deploy officially on November 29th, 2003.
It was not until November 4th, 2002 that some level of revenge was achieved. Ali Qaed Sinan al-Harthi - believed to be the mastermind of the USS Cole attack - was assassinated by the CIA by way of a Hughes AGM-114 Hellfire anti-tank missile launched via an MQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicle proving the old adage "You can run but you cannot hide".
On June 8th, 2006, the USS Cole made her way into Arabian waters for the first time since the attack, honoring her lost crew in true USN fashion as the vessel passed the Port of Aden. Since then, she has returned once more to Norfolk and set out yet again to actively patrol the waters off Lebanon. Once knocked down but far from out of the fight, the USS Cole treads on to this day.
It's All in the Name
The USS Cole is named after Sergeant Darrell S. Cole of the United States Marine Corps, a US service member killed in action on February 19th, 1945, at Iwo Jima in World War 2. The ship fights under the motto "Gloria Merces Virtutis" translating to "Glory is the Reward of Valor". The Cole makes her homeport out of NS Norfolk, Virginia.
February 2017 - USS Cole has been called to patrol off the coast of Yemen (Gulf of Aden) following a Houthi (Iranian-supported) rebel attack on a Saudi warship.