ARLINGTON, Va. — The Navy went old-school on Somali militants Friday, using naval gunfire against bad guys for the first time in the region since the Gulf War.
It was first reported over the weekend that a U.S. destroyer had shelled Islamic militants in Somalia, where Ethiopian and Islamic government forces are fighting insurgents from the Islamic Courts Union, which the U.S. government has accused of sheltering al-Qaida terrorists.
A senior Defense official confirmed Tuesday that the USS Chafee, based out of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, fired more than a dozen rounds from its 5-inch gun during the strike.
The official had no data on the effectiveness of the attack.
The last time the U.S. Navy shelled shore targets in the U.S. Central Command theater of operations was during the Gulf War when the battleships USS Missouri and Wisconsin used their 16-inch guns to blast Iraqi bunkers
It is rare nowadays for U.S. warships to use their guns against shore targets, explained Jack Green, of the Naval Historical Center in Washington, D.C.
After the Korean War, the Navy moved put more emphasis on missiles and guns to counter the perceived threat of Soviet bombers armed with nuclear weapons, Green said.
But the Navy found it still needed its big guns during Vietnam, and it employed World War II era ships such as the battleship USS New Jersey, Green said. The ships provided artillery support for U.S. troops inland.
Battleships were brought back into service in the 1980s to provide Marines the firepower they needed, hence the use of battleships during the Gulf War, Green said.
The battleships proved too costly to man and maintain after the Gulf War and were decommissioned in the 1990s.
On the new DDG-1000 ships, the Navy plans to replace the 5-inch guns with more precise 155 mm Advanced Gun Weapons Systems, said Landon Hutchens, a spokesman with Naval Sea Systems Command.
The old war wagons may be gone, but sailors aboard guided missile cruisers and destroyers still train to use their 5-inch guns against shore targets, said Paul Taylor, a spokesman for Surface Forces Atlantic.
“Shipboard Naval Surface Fire Support (NSFS) teams attend one week of schoolhouse training in a simulator ashore, which is followed by regular shipboard training sessions that use an embedded 5-inch gun simulator,” Taylor said in a Tuesday e-mail to Stars and Stripes.
The training takes place at Naval Amphibious Base, Little Creek, Va.; and Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, Calif.; and aboard ships required to qualify for the Surface Fire Support Mission, Taylor said.