Skull & Bones: Underway


Categorie: Africa, Axe on Donald Cook, David Axe, Naval, Piracy |

A year after Somali piracy peaked with more than 100 ships attacked, the world’s navies have assembled dozens of warships to combat the threat. David Axe joins the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Donald Cook in Djibouti, to observe firsthand this “global war on piracy.”



“Thirty-second standby.”

That’s the voice from the pilot house of the destroyer USS Donald Cook, as the 9,000-ton vessel prepares to depart Djibouti. It’s bright and early on September 24th. After a night of liberty at Camp Lemonier in this squalid East African country, it’s time to get back to work. The warship, known as “DC” to her crew, is part of the NATO maritime group protecting the Gulf of Aden from Somali pirates. Today, DC will rendezvous with the British escort HMS Cornwall for a face-to-face with the group commodore, before heading off to DC’s own patrol box.

Idling pierside at Djibouti, DC’s powerplant is mostly shut down. Fuel, air and lube circulate, but the ship’s gas turbines — providing up to 100,000 ship horsepower — are off-line. Above deck, on the fo’c'sle, sailors are pulling in lines, and helping lash the destroyer to tugboats. As the pilot house counts down, the six engineers in the control room, pictured, stand by to fire up the turbines.

Ensign Justin Kelly, the turbine officer, describes the steps. First, the engineers switch on the generators. Then, the fuel pumps, filters, seawater pumps for cooling and the bleed-air outlet. The pilot house voice intones, “Three, two, one, mark.” And with the press of a button, Kelly’s engineers fire up the turbines. Donald Cook comes to life.

(Photo: David Axe)

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4 Responses to “Skull & Bones: Underway”

  1. Tiffany schmidt says:

    The sailors of the USS Donald Cook are my heros

  2. [...] Also, the “military are doing better,” Chick adds. In Somali waters there are 20 warships belonging to three international flotillas — NATO’s, the E.U.’s and the American-led Combined Task Force 151 — plus another 20 ships from Russia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and Iran. All the forces, expect Iran, send reps to a monthly meeting in Bahrain to dole out patrol areas. The three flotillas take turns as chair of the assembled fleet, with veto power during any dispute over who sails where. So far, Chick says, there haven’t been any arguments. Officers on USS Donald Cook, part of the NATO force, describe sitting in the destroyer’s Combat Information Center listening to sailors from a dozen nations checking in. [...]

  3. [...] The Navy seems to consider the oceans as their own personal domain and it can afford to dispose of essential anti-submarine escorts and coastal warships, while building large Aegis battleships which are currently doing the work once performed by cheaper, less capable, but vital small warships. Already the cruisers and destroyers are duplicating the aircraft carrier’s land attack role, with 400 mile range cruise missiles and now are shouldered with yet another burden of defending our allies from rogue Iranian or North Korean rockets. Already we see the infighting of whether even more $2 billion new Burke destroyers will be needed, on top of the 60+ already in service or ordered. Colin Clark at DoD Buzz wonders about this conundrum: One of the most difficult issues is, do we have enough Aegis cruisers to execute the mission. Gates wants two to three cruisers in the Mediterranean and North Sea on a regular basis. That comes on top of the Pacific mission. And I hear that the Aegis fleet is already operating at 160 percent of its readiness rate, mostly to cope with the North Korean threat. One source with detailed knowledge of European missile defense efforts said the new mission will require at least one and perhaps more Aegis class ships to do the job. [...]

  4. [...] But the Navy’s not waiting around for the delayed and over-budget LCS. USS Donald Cook, a 9,000-ton Burke-class destroyer designed for open-ocean combat, braved outdated charts and her fairly deep draft to perform her own littoral combat mission in recent weeks, when she patrolled just a mile and a half from Somali pirate camps soon after deploying to East Africa this summer. [...]

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