Kitty Hawk remains in Hawaii for RIMPAC
The aircraft carrier USS George Washington will not take up its post in Japan at the end of August, as previously announced, due to ongoing repairs after a fire in May.
Vice Adm. Samuel Locklear, who as commander of the 3rd Fleet controls the operations of the Navy's warships in the eastern and northern Pacific, said yesterday the ship is undergoing repairs in San Diego.
The nuclear-powered carrier was supposed to visit Pearl Harbor during the current Rim of the Pacific naval war games and do a crew swap with the USS Kitty Hawk, which would then have steamed to Bremerton, Wash., for decommissioning in January.
After 47 years of service, the Kitty Hawk is the Navy's oldest aircraft carrier and the last that is conventionally powered.
However, the May 22 fire, which damaged electrical cabling and components in 80 different sections of the Washington, forced the Navy to keep the Kitty Hawk in Hawaii waters for more than a month for the RIMPAC naval exercise.
Locklear said the Washington still must pass crucial tests before it can be returned to the fleet and take up its assignment as the Kitty Hawk's replacement in Japan.
The two aircraft carriers will change crews in San Diego after RIMPAC, but no date has been set for the George Washington's departure for Yokosuka.
Locklear, this year's RIMPAC commander, said the naval exercise is "a recognition that no one country can maintain the global security environment. It requires us working together."
The multinational naval exercise -- which involves 10 countries this year -- is intended to improve communication between navies, said Locklear. He spoke at a Pearl Harbor news conference in front of two South Korean destroyers and the cruiser USS Port Royal.
Locklear called communications critical to "effective tactical operations" involving the 35 U.S. and foreign warships, six submarines and 150 aircraft in the exercise.
RIMPAC, with 20,000 participants, began on Sunday and will center until Tuesday around shore-side planning meetings, safety briefings and social events. After the warships leave Pearl Harbor on Tuesday, the ocean operations over the ensuing two weeks will focus on live fire, missile, anti-submarine warfare and undersea warfare exercises.
Several decommissioned warships -- destroyers Cushing, David R. Ray and Fletcher and the cruiser Horne -- will be sunk as targets.
The tactical phase will run July 24-28. In the past that phase has been built around a scenario in which a Pacific island country is threatened by a stronger neighbor.