By Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division
It was 13 years ago today, in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Operation Enduring Freedom began against the Taliban and Al Qaeda holed up in the mountain ranges of Afghanistan.
The U.S.-led coalition launched tomahawk missiles against terrorist training camps and military installations. First among them came from destroyer John Paul Jones (DDG 53) and guided-missile cruiser Philippine Sea (CG 58).
“These carefully targeted actions are designed to disrupt the use of Afghanistan as a terrorist base of operations, and to attack the military capability of the Taliban regime,” President George W. Bush told Congress the morning of Oct. 7, 2001.
The United States was joined by coalition members of Great Britain, Germany, France, Canada and Australia. More than 40 other countries granted air transit or landing rights and shared intelligence.
“By destroying camps and disrupting communications, we will make it more difficult for the terror network to train new recruits and coordinate their evil plans,” Bush explained. “As we strike military targets, we’ll also drop food, medicine and supplies to the starving and suffering men and women and children of Afghanistan.”
Bush continued by adding the United States is a “friend to the Afghan people, and we are the friends of almost a billion worldwide who practice the Islamic faith. The United States of America is an enemy of those who aid terrorists and of the barbaric criminals who profane a great religion by committing murder in its name.”
The military action, Bush continued, was just one part of the campaign against terrorism. The other parts include diplomacy and intelligence.
“Today we focus on Afghanistan, but the battle is broader. Every nation has a choice to make. In this conflict, there is no neutral ground….We’re a peaceful nation. Yet, as we have learned, so suddenly and so tragically, there can be no peace in a world of sudden terror. In the face of today’s new threat, the only way to pursue peace is to pursue those who threaten it. We did not ask for this mission, but we will fulfill it.”
And fulfill it they did. Early combat operations included Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from both U.S. and British ships and submarines, while air strikes came from carrier-based F-14 and F/A 18 fighters and land-based B-1, B-2 and B-52 bombers.
After the first wave of air and missile strikes, Special Operations Forces were sent in to engage in unconventional warfare tactics ahead of the arrival of coalition ground forces.
Tomahawk in Combat
It is said that in a crisis one of the first questions asked by military leaders is “Where are the carriers?” However, since the Tomahawk land attack missile was first used in combat during Operation Desert Storm, most military operations have really begun with strikes using these precision weapons launched from cruisers, destroyers and submarines.
The Tomahawk is an all-weather, long-range cruise missile capable of being launched from more than 140 U. S. Navy surface ships and submarines for land attack warfare. It can precisely strike high value or heavily defended land targets. All cruisers, destroyers and guided-missile and attack submarines are capable of using the system.
Here is a list of some of the combat operations in which the Tomahawk has figured prominently.
Jan. 17, 1991: At 1:30 a.m., nine ships in the Mediterranean, Persian Gulf, and Red Sea fired the first of 122 Tomahawk cruise missiles at Iraqi targets during Operation Desert Storm. This marked the first combat launch of the Tomahawk. The guided-missile cruiser San Jacinto (CG 56) fires the first Tomahawk from the Red Sea, while the guided-missile cruiser Bunker Hill (CG 52) fires the first Tomahawk from the Persian Gulf. By the end of the second day of the operation, ships and submarines had launched 216 Tomahawks against 17 Iraqi military leadership, electric, and oil targets. On day three of the operation, the fast attack submarine USS Louisville (SSN 724), while submerged in the Red Sea, fired the first submarine-launched Tomahawk cruise missile in combat history
Jan. 17, 1993 In response to Iraqi violations of the Middle East no-fly zone the guided-missile cruiser USS Cowpens (CG 53) and destroyers USS Hewitt (DD 966) and USS Stump (DD 978) steaming in the Persian Gulf, and destroyer USS Caron (DD 970) in the Red Sea, launched 42 Tomahawks against targets in Iraq.
June 26, 1993 In what Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Colin L. Powell, described as a “proportionate” response to the Iraqi assassination plot against former President George H. W. Bush, his wife Barbara, two of their sons, and former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, the guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG 62) launched nine Tomahawks from the northern Persian Gulf, and the destroyer USS Peterson (DD 969) fired 14 more missiles from the Red Sea, in a coordinated night attack against the Iraqi intelligence service headquarters building in Baghdad.
Aug. 30, 1995 Three weeks after the end of the Croatian military’s successful Operation Storm, aircraft from the carrier Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) spearhead attacks against Bosnian Serb air defense missile sites, radar sites and communications facilities as part of the opening day of Operation Deliberate Force. The operation lasts until Sept. 20 and includes, among other operations, thirteen Tomahawk land attack missile strikes from the guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG 60). In part as a result of the operation, the Bosnian Serb forces agree to enter peace negotiations that ultimately result in the Dayton Accords, ending the conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Sept. 3, 1996 Operation Desert Strike began—retaliation against the Aug. 31 dispatch by Saddam Hussein of 40,000 Iraqi Republican Guardsmen and regulars against Irbil, a Patriotic Union of Kurdistan town 48 miles east of Mosul. Desert Strike attacked Iraqi fixed surface-to-air missile sites and air defense command and control facilities in southern Iraq. The guided-missile cruiser USS Shiloh (CG 67) and the guided-missile destroyer USS Laboon (DDG 58) fired 14 Tomahawks The next day, the destroyer USS Hewitt (DD 966), and the guided-missile destroyers USS Laboon (DDG 58) and USS Russell (DDG 59), and fast attack submarine USS Jefferson City (SSN 759) fired 17 more.
Aug. 20, 1998 Operation Infinite Reach (Resolute Response) began—two simultaneous retaliatory raids in response to the twin al-Qaeda attacks on the embassies in East Africa on Aug. 7. The guided issile cruisers USS Cowpens (CG 63) and USS Shiloh (CG 67), destroyer USS Elliott (DD 967), guided-missile destroyer USS Milius (DDG 69), and fast attack submarine USS Columbia (SSN 771) fired 73 Tomahawks at the Zhawar Kili al-Badr terrorist training and support complex, 30 miles southwest of Khowst, Afghanistan. Meanwhile the destroyers USS Briscoe (DD 977) and USS Hayler (DD 997) steaming in the Red Sea launched six Tomahawks against the al-Shifa pharmaceutical plant near Khartoum, Sudan.
Dec. 16, 1998 With Iraqi President Saddam Hussein obstructing weapons inspections, the U.S. launches Operation Desert Fox, a series of sustained air strikes against Iraqi, chemical and biological weapons development facilities. Seven ships carrying Tomahawk cruise missiles, participate in the operation.
March 24, 1999 With the collapse of diplomatic efforts to counter Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) President Slobodan Milosevic’s “cleansing” of ethnic Albanians from Kosovo, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) launches Operation Allied Force, with Navy surface ships and submarines launching Tomahawk cruise missiles.
Oct. 7, 2001 Operation Enduring Freedom begins when a U.S.-led coalition launched tomahawk missiles and air strikes against terrorist training camps and military installations.
Oct. 7-14, 2001 As the war in Afghanistan entered its second week, British and U.S. naval-launched Tomahawks attacked seven target areas—two near Kandahar, one near the crucial crossroads of Mazār-e-Sharīf, and two around the capital of Kabul that collectively consisted of training facilities, surface-to-air missile storage sites, garrisons, and troop staging areas.
March 19, 2003 A coalition of nations launched Operation Iraqi Freedom which began with Tomahawk strikes.
March 19, 2011: U.S. naval forces participated in a Tomahawk missile strike March 19 on Libya as part of Operation Odyssey Dawn designed to set the conditions for a coalition no-fly zone. The guided-missile destroyers USS Stout (DDG 55) and USS Barry (DDG 52), fast attack submarines USS Providence (SSN 719), USS Scranton (SSN 756) and the guided-missile submarine USS Florida (SSGN 728) participated in the strike.
Sept. 22, 2014: U.S. military forces and partner nations, including Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, undertook military action against ISIL terrorists in Syria. The strikes included 47 Tomahawks launched from the guided-missile destroyer USS Arleigh Burke (DDG 61) and USS Philippine Sea (CG 58) operating from international waters in the Red Sea and North Arabian Gulf.