Navy dispatching fourth U.S. carrier, but without its aircraft : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Posted at 5:58 p.m. PDT Monday, Oct. 1, 2001

Navy dispatching fourth U.S. carrier, but without its aircraft

BY ROBERT BURNS AP Military Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush's war on terrorism gained a fourth aircraft carrier Monday -- but the USS Kitty Hawk isn't bringing along its full fleet of planes.

The Kitty Hawk will serve as a floating base for other forces, defense officials said.

In keeping with the administration's policy of not discussing details of military activities related to the anti-terror campaign, the Navy would not comment except to say the Kitty Hawk does not have its usual number of aircraft aboard.

Two defense officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Kitty Hawk was headed from its homeport in Japan toward the Arabian Sea to be available for use by U.S. special operations forces or by Navy aircraft other than its own.

Lt. Cmdr. Jeff Gordon, a spokesman at Pacific Fleet headquarters in Hawaii, said the Kitty Hawk left a portion of its 75-plane air wing behind at Atsugi Air Base in Japan when it departed Monday.

Gordon said he could not provide other details. One defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Kitty Hawk left Yokosuka Naval Base outside of Tokyo with a ``representative mix'' of strike and support planes on board, including combat aircraft like the F-18 Hornet and F-14 Tomcat. He would not say how many planes were on board but made clear it was much fewer than normal.

A carrier's fighter and surveillance aircraft are used not only for combat but also to protect the carrier against hostile aircraft.

The Kitty Hawk is the only one of the Navy's 12 carriers to be stationed permanently abroad.

Other than Afghanistan, U.S. officials have refused to discuss which nations might be military targets. Secretary of State Colin Powell said the first phase of retaliation will be aimed at Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida network. In an interview on ``CBS Evening News,'' Powell would not rule out a strike against Iraq.

Bush ``has ruled nothing out with respect to second, third or fourth phases of our campaign militarily,'' Powell told CBS. ``What we really have to do is shut down terrorism, not just find a single place to take revenge out on, or a group of people to take revenge out on.''

If the Kitty Hawk were used primarily as a launch platform for other kinds of U.S. forces, it would be unusual but not unprecedented. When U.S. forces assembled in the Caribbean Sea for a planned invasion of Haiti in the early 1990s, one aircraft carrier had soldiers from the Army's 10th Mountain Division on board instead of its full air wing. Another carrier had special operations forces aboard.

Two aircraft carrier battle groups -- the USS Carl Vinson and the USS Enterprise -- already are in the Arabian Sea or Persian Gulf, and a third -- the USS Theodore Roosevelt -- is headed there via the Mediterranean Sea.

President Bush on Monday mentioned the growing U.S. naval firepower converging on the region near Afghanistan.

``On the military front we're making progress,'' Bush said in remarks at the Federal Emergency Management Agency. ``We've deployed 29,000 military personnel in two carrier battle groups as well as an Amphibious Ready Group and several hundred military aircraft.''

An Amphibious Ready Group is a self-contained contingent of 2,100 Marines aboard Navy ships. The core of the Marine group with the Vinson is the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

In addition to the naval forces in the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea, the Pentagon has dispatched more than 100 additional Air Force planes to the region since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. They are based in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and other Gulf nations.

-- Martin Thompson (, October 01, 2001

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