The first U.S. Navy ship named Higgins.
(DDG-76: displacement 8,960; length 505'; beam 66'; draft 31'; speed 30+ knots; complement 356; armament 1 5-inch, 2 Mk 41 Vertical Launch System (VLS) for BGM-109 Tomahawks, RIM-156 SM-2MR Standards, and RUM-139 VL-ASROC Antisubmarine Rockets, 8 RGM-84 Harpoons (2 Mk 141 launchers), 2 Mk 15 Close In Weapon Systems (CIWS), 4 .50 caliber machine guns, and 6 Mk 32 torpedo tubes, aircraft operate (but not embark) 1 Sikorsky SH-60B Light Airborne Multi-Purpose System (LAMPS) Mk III Seahawk; class Arleigh Burke)
Higgins (DDG-76) was laid down on 14 November 1996 at Bath, Maine, by Bath Iron Works; launched on 4 October 1997; sponsored by Mrs. Robin Higgins, widow of the late Col. Higgins; and commissioned on 24 April 1999 at Port Everglades, Fla., Cmdr. James L. T. Smith in command.
Higgins switched coasts and operations from the Atlantic Fleet to the Pacific Fleet when she steamed from Port Everglades, Fla., to (27 April 1999). The ship held her first swim call on 29 April, carried out gunnery training off Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico (3-6 May), refueled there and then resumed her voyage, visiting Cartagena, Columbia (10-14 May), and passing through the Panama Canal (15-16 May). Higgins crossed the equator for the first time on 19 May 1999, and the shellbacks initiated 183 pollywogs into the mysteries of King Neptune’s realm. Higgins conducted a SlamEx battle exercise, visited Mazatlan, Mexico (26-29 May), and accomplished repairs at Naval Station (NS) San Diego, Calif. (1 June-12 July, loading ammunition at Naval Air Station (NAS) North Island on 8 July).
While Higgins carried out repairs and maintenance at San Diego (4-26 March 2000), author Richard P. Henrick, who wrote the book Crimson Tide, which was adapted into a screenplay for a major motion picture, visited the ship. Henrick observed her operations and intended to incorporate some of his experiences on board Higgins into his future work.
Higgins deployed for Operation Iraqi Freedom I and on 21 and 22 March 2003, she joined 29 other U.S. and British ships and submarines that fired BGM-109 Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles (TLAMs) against Iraqi military targets.
A magnitude 7.3 earthquake devastated Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on 12 January 2010, killing an estimated 230,000 people. The U.S. initiated Operation Unified Response, humanitarian aid to victims. At the peak level of Unified Response, 23 Navy ships participated including Higgins, aircraft carrier Carl Vinson (CVN-70), with Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 17 embarked, amphibious assault ships Bataan (LHD-5) and Nassau (LHA-4), dock landing ships Ashland (LSD-48), Carter Hall (LSD-50), Fort McHenry (LSD-43), and Gunston Hall (LSD-44), and amphibious transport dock Mesa Verde (LPD-19), with the 22nd and 24th Marine Expeditionary Units embarked, together with 10 Coast Guard ships. A total of 264 U.S. fixed-wing aircraft took part, along with 57 helos and tiltrotor aircraft. The Air Force diverted a Northrop Grumman RQ-4A en route to Afghanistan and operated the Global Hawk on several reconnaissance missions over Haiti from NAS Patuxent River, Md. Airlifters of all the services and international aid agencies staged through NAS Jacksonville, Fla. Carl Vinson came about on 1 February and by 24 March these ships largely sailed from Haitian waters, although relief efforts continued into the summer.
The Syrian regime killed at least 45 people and sickened hundreds of others in a chemical weapons attack on Douma, Syria, on 7 April 2018.
“This massacre was a significant escalation in a pattern of chemical weapons use by that very terrible regime,” President Donald J. Trump said during an announcement from the White House on 13 April. “The evil and despicable attack left mothers and fathers, infants and children thrashing in pain and gasping for air. These are not actions of a man; they are crimes of a monster instead.”
“As the world knows, the Syrian people have suffered terribly under the prolonged brutality of the Assad [Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad] regime,” Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis said at a Pentagon news conference on 13 April. “On April 7, the regime decided to again defy the norms of civilized people showing callous disregard for international law by using chemical weapons to murder women, children and other innocents. We and our allies find these atrocities inexcusable.”
On the night of 13 April, U.S., British, and French servicemembers attacked the Syrian chemical arsenal. Chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana W. White and Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, USMC, the Joint Staff director, briefed the press from the Pentagon the following day, saying that the operation appeared to be successful and that the allies did not suffer any casualties.
White said the attack on the people in Douma “demanded a response,” and the coalition consequently targeted the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons infrastructure. “We launched these strikes to limit Syria’s ability to use chemical weapons in the future,” she said. “We successfully hit every target,” White summarized.
Coalition forces struck three distinct military chemical weapons targets. “The three facilities are -- or more appropriately, were -- the fundamental components of the regime’s chemical weapons warfare infrastructure,” McKenzie observed.
The first target comprised a scientific research center near Barzah in the greater Damascus area. The military facility operated as a center for research, development, production, and testing of chemical and biological agents, the general revealed. The other targets lay in two locations near the city of Homs. The Him Shinshar chemical weapons storage facility lay west of Homs. “We assess this was the primary location of Syrian sarin and precursor production equipment,” McKenzie said. “The third target…contained both a chemical weapons storage facility and an important command post.”
“I would use three words to describe the operation: Precise, overwhelming and effective,” the general said.
The allies fired 105 missiles at the enemy. Guided-missile cruiser Monterey (CG-61) and Laboon (DDG-58) launched a combined 37 TLAMs while steaming in the Red Sea. Higgins hurled another 23 Tomahawks while sailing in the Arabian Gulf, and submarine John Warner (SSN-785) launched six UGM-109 TLAMs from the Eastern Mediterranean. Donald Cook (DDG-75) operated in the region but did not fire weapons, according to Pentagon officials. The French Navy meanwhile released footage of their frigate Languedoc (D.653) firing three Missile De Croisière Naval (MdCNs), naval variant land attack cruise missiles.
Allied aircraft also took part in the battle, including two USAF Rockwell B-1B Lancers and their fighter escorts, along with a marine Grumman EA-6B Prowler and tankers. The Prowler helped jam enemy air defense communications and radar, while the Lancers launched 19 extended range AGM-168B Joint Air-To-Surface Standoff Munitions (JASSM-ERs). British Royal Air Force Eurofighter Typhoons and Panavia Tornado GR4s, and French Dassault Rafales and Mirage 2000s, also flew in the fighting.
Planners timed the attacks to occur during the Syrian pre-dawn hours and for all of the weapons to hit at about 0400. Gen. McKenzie noted that the missiles struck their targets within one minute of the designated strike time. The allies fired 76 missiles, numbering 57 TLAMs and 19 JASSMs, into Barzah, and photographs taken after the strikes show that the attack reduced the three buildings there to rubble. Twenty-two weapons, including nine TLAMs, eight British Storm Shadow low-observable air-launched cruise missiles, and the three French MdCNs, slammed into the Him Shinsar chemical weapons storage facility. French jets launched seven Système de Croisière Autonome à Longue Portèe – Emploi Général (SCALP EG — general purpose long range standoff cruise missiles) against the Him Shinsar command facility.
“None of our aircraft or missiles involved in this operation were successfully engaged by Syrian air defenses,” McKenzie said. “We have no indication that Russian air defenses were employed.” The Syrians launched surface-to-air missiles on a ballistic trajectory that missed the attackers. “Most of the launches occurred after our strike was over,” the general said. “When you shoot iron into the air without guidance, it has to come down somewhere.”
Obviously, the Assad regime did not get the message last year,” Mattis said. The strikes now send a very clear message to Syrian leaders “that they should not perpetrate another chemical weapons attack for which they will be held accountable,” the secretary reflected. “It is a time for all civilized nations to urgently unite to end the Syrian civil war by supporting the United Nations backed Geneva peace process,” Mattis said.
Detailed history pending.
Mark L. Evans
17 April 2018