USS Cowpens Launches First Missiles in Operation Iraqi Freedom

Story Number: NNS030320-18Release Date: 3/20/2003 4:17:00 PM
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By Lt. Cmdr. Michael Brown, Carrier Group 5 Public Affairs

ABOARD USS COWPENS, At Sea (NNS) -- USS Cowpens (CG 63) successfully fired 11 Tomahawk land attack cruise missiles (TLAM) just before dawn today (Mar. 20) in the Arabian Gulf, as part of the first strikes in what is now being called Operation Iraqi Freedom.

On short notice, the ship's strike team was directed to alert status and was on station when the mission orders were received. The crew executed the orders within minutes of receipt, firing missiles from both the forward and aft launchers. Commanding Officer Capt. Charles B. Dixon gave the final permission to execute the missile salvo in accordance with the orders of the commander of the 5th Fleet.

Much of the crew was uninformed prior to the launch, and some awoke to the sounds of missiles being fired. Cowpens' crew carried out orders as directed by the President in response to a short notice window of opportunity against significant military targets as identified by National Command Authority.

Cowpens is part of the permanently forward-deployed naval forces operating out of Yokosuka, Japan, and is under the command of Dixon. The Ticonderoga-class cruiser has a crew of 42 officers and 363 enlisted personnel.

Cowpens is under the operational control of Carrier Group 5, the USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) battle group, and has been operating in the 5th Fleet area of responsibility since February 2003.

For more information on Carrier Group 5 actions, visit

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The Guided missile cruiser USS Cowpens (CG 63) approaches Kitty Hawk during a refueling at sea
Official U.S. Navy file photo of the guided-missile cruiser USS Cowpens (CG 63). Cowpens became the first ship to fire missiles in the Arabian Gulf in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
February 3, 2003
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