Japan: Tempo increases at U.S. military installations

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Tempo increases at U.S. military installations

The Asahi Shimbun

Ship and aircraft activity indicates U.S. forces in Japan are preparing for action.

U.S. military forces in Japan are apparently preparing for a retaliatory attack following Tuesday's devastating terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

The guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur and the Navy cruiser Vincennes on Monday morning left the U.S. Navy base in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture.

Since Tuesday's attack, three Navy ships belonging to the 7th Fleet have left port, including the guided missile cruiser USS Cowpens. The Cowpens got under way from Yokosuka on Saturday. All three warships are equipped with the sophisticated Aegis air defense system.

Officers of the Maritime Self-Defense Forces speculated the Yokosuka-based vessels would participate in the first phase of any retaliatory attack.

Yokosuka Naval Base is homeport to the USS Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier battle group. Ten vessels, including Navy cruisers and guided-missile destroyers capable of launching Tomahawk cruise missiles, are stationed in Yokosuka.

During the 1991 Persian Gulf War, the Navy cruiser Bunker Hill was deployed from the Yokosuka base to the Persian Gulf and launched Tomahawk cruise missiles.

In another sign of increased readiness, fighter planes off the USS Kitty Hawk took part in take-off and landing drills Sunday morning at Naval Air Facility Atsugi in Kanagawa Prefecture.

These drills are normally conducted before the vessel leaves port.

The aircraft carrier based in Yokosuka is normally assigned to patrol the Middle East region and was deployed to the front during the Persian Gulf War.

Meanwhile, two KC-135 refueling tanker aircraft and a number of F-15 fighter planes left Kadena Air Base in Okinawa Precture for Alaska on Sunday.

U.S. Navy officials said those flights were part of a normal operational schedule.

The 15 KC-135 refueling aircraft stationed in Kadena constitute the only U.S. air tanker unit in the Pacific region. During the Persian Gulf War, it enabled U.S. Air Force aircraft to fly non-stop from bases in U.S. territories to the Middle East.


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), September 18, 2001

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