When the aircraft carrier USS John C Stennis returns to the placid blue waters of the Gulf with her strike force of 70 jets in the next few days, she will be ready for action off the coast of Iran.
The flagship $4.5 billion carrier, a 100,000 ton floating city with a crew of 5,000, was despatched [sic] four months earlier than planned to bolster the United States Navy’s already formidable force in the region, the Fifth Fleet.
“Could there be a threat?” asked Rear Admiral Mike Shoemaker, the man who would command any mission to force open the sea lanes. “Yes is the answer. Is it manageable? Also yes.”
“If they sunk a tanker, that could shut the Strait for a couple of days or a week,” Adm Shoemaker said. “But we could deal with that quite quickly. A massive mine-laying effort, though, would take a while to clear.”
This weekend the carrier is briefly docked in Bahrain, the headquarters of the Fifth Fleet.
But if America is drawn into another big war in the Middle East, a key nerve centre for operations will be the admiral’s bridge on the ship, a surprisingly uncluttered space. There are only two computer screens, a big telephone, and an old-fashioned ship’s compass. The view is spectacular, high above a heaving flight deck, the length of three football fields, where screaming jets land and take off. Most are flying daily combat missions over Afghanistan.
As the ship patrolled not far from the Strait of Hormuz, officers on the bridge pointed out the different planes: Hawkeyes, which see over the horizon with radar; Prowlers, which blind the enemy’s electronic eyes; and Hornets, the ones that do the damage by dropping precision-guided bombs as heavy as one ton on any target the admiral chooses. Iran’s nuclear sites are within easy range.
The bombs are now nearly all precision-guided by laser and GPS. The biggest can be carried by a jet, but landing with a one-ton bomb is too risky so they are dropped at sea if they are not used against an enemy.
Full article: US aircraft carrier strikeforce readies in case of war with Iran (The Telegraph)