IMPERIAL BEACH, Calif. – Six years after suicide bombers in an explosives-laden boat blew a hole in the USS Cole in Yemen, the Navy on Thursday commissioned its first active-duty unit with the job of thwarting a repeat of the attack that killed 17 sailors.
Naval Coastal Warfare Squadron Five will protect shipping lanes and U.S. forces overseas, defend harbors and provide port security with small, fast gunboats not seen since Vietnam. The squadron, expanding to 325 men and women, is expected to make its first deployment in 2007 to either Kuwait, South Korea or the Horn of Africa.
The squadron will deploy with a fleet of 18 aluminum-hulled boats equipped with machine guns and grenade launchers that can be loaded onto a C-17 transport plane and flown around the globe. In the water, they are capable of reaching speeds of more than 35 knots. Elements of the squadron can go ashore with a mobile sensor unit to provide surveillance of the operating area and relay communications.
Training scenarios include how to deal with a suicide bomber riding an explosive-laden Jet-Ski or in a fishing vessel, said Rear Adm. Donald K. Bullard, who oversees the squadron as head of a new Navy command for anti-terrorism and force protection.
On Oct. 12, 2000, two bombers rammed the Cole as it refueled in the southern Yemen port city of Aden. Besides the 17 killed, 37 American sailors were injured.