Saturday, June 26, 2010

A Tip to Analysts: Look Where the Aircraft-Carriers Are Located or Headed

“Any of you boys seen an aircraft-carrier around here?” – Maverick (aka Top Gun)

Actually, a couple of them. The USS Truman sailed through the Suez Canal last week with a dozen escort ships all armed to the teeth. The Truman is supposed to relieve the USS Eisenhower on station in the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Ike stays around a little longer. Ostensibly, the Truman is supposed to provide support for the Afghanistan war, and several support ships are supposed to peel off for anti-piracy patrols off the coast of Somalia. French President Sarkozy [pictured right] revealed this week that the French carrier the Charles De Gaulle is heading out to the region “before the end of the year.” How soon will it be before the British HMS Ark Royal will also join the other carriers in the region? Probably not too long considering that French, British and American jets have been participating in joint exercises in recent months with pilots landing on each other’s carriers.

An Iranian Nightmare

Earlier this month Navy Times detailed the joint air operations and interoperability exercises of the French and U.S. carriers.

A brace of French Navy Rafales flying from the Charles de Gaulle carrier roared down [pictured left] to perform touch-and-go landings on the vast deck of this Nimitz class carrier, in a show of interoperability between the two navies. The cross-deck operations included a Rafale landing on the U.S. carrier June 4, being taken down in one of the maintenance hangars and having one of its engines removed and refitted. …The U.S. carrier Truman docked at Marseille on June 8 …. [on its way to the Suez Canal.] Meanwhile, [U.S.] F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, practiced touch-and-go landings on the Charles de Gaulle, which was sailing nearby. American pilots also took part in close-air support training exercises with British and French forward air observers at Canjuers, the French Army training base in the dry, scrubby countryside behind Toulon.

In similar exercises last month, American jets were landing and taking off from the British Ark Royal off the eastern coast of the United States.

For armchair generals, here’s a website that provides details on American carriers, their location and status.

The presence of several aircraft carriers near the Afghanistan conflict also puts them within range of Iran. And carriers come with a large complement of guided missile cruisers, destroyers and submarines. In addition to the scores of planes on the carriers, presumably more aircraft are on bases on the Arabian Peninsula. Long-range bombers can also be launched from bases thousands of miles away.

An Iranian attack by anti-ship missiles or even short and medium-range ballistic missiles must be taken into account by allied forces in the region. All four of the destroyers accompanying the Truman are equipped with the Aegis ballistic missile defence system. Their offensive weaponry, particularly their Tomahawk cruise missiles, should worry Iranian military planners.

Postscript: The importance of interoperability was brought home several decades ago when an Israeli helicopter pilot was faced with a mechanical failure on his craft. As he was examining his options for ditching, he spotted an American aircraft carrier and decided to land his helicopter on the deck. As he got out of the aircraft, the fuming American captain charged and screamed at the chopper pilot, “How could you do that? How can you just land on my ship?!” The Israeli (who confirmed the story for me) responded, “I thought it was one of ours.” Sphere

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