Friday, December 27, 2002

The Globe and Mail: U.S. orders navy to prepare carriers for Iraq

The Pentagon has ordered the U.S. navy to prepare two aircraft carriers and two amphibious assault vessels for possible action in Iraq, defence officials said Friday.

The ships and the escorts would bring a powerful military force to the region, adding several warships, scores of strike aircraft and roughly 4,400 marines to the forces already within striking distance of Iraq.

If the order to sail is given, the USS George Washington battle group would be sent from the Atlantic fleets, officials said. The George Washington returned to its base in Norfolk, Va., from the region on Dec. 20 and is considered best prepared for action.

Either the USS Abraham Lincoln or the USS Kitty Hawk battle group would be sent from the Pacific fleets. The Abraham Lincoln is in Perth, Australia, having just left the Persian Gulf region. The Kitty Hawk is in port in Japan.
Already in the region is the carrier USS Constellation and the amphibious assault ship USS Nassau, and their escorts, officials said. The Nassau group carries another 2,200 marines.

A fourth carrier group, centred on the USS Harry S. Truman, is in the Mediterranean Sea.

In addition, the U.S. navy hospital ship Comfort is expected to put to sea from its home port in Baltimore next week and prepare for action, military officials said Friday. It will be headed to Diego Garcia, a British island in the Indian Ocean where the United States bases numerous military aircraft, to support any potential conflict with Iraq.

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