“Navy Destroyer Attacked!” was the headline of every U.S. newspaper and morning talk show on 12 October 2020, the 20-year anniversary of the al Qaeda attack on the USS Cole (DDG-67). A terrorist group used a swarm of drones carrying explosives to cripple the radars and weapon systems of the USS John Basilone (DDG-122) only months before she was due to deploy with her carrier strike group. The John Basilone was moored at Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach and in the process of onloading missiles and ammunition.
The drone threat has been around for years, but the Navy has yet to prioritize defending against these easily acquired weapons. Amid preparations for a high-end fight, the Navy still is vulnerable to an adversary trading thousand-dollar drones for billion-dollar warships.