Friday, July 16, 1999

Navy: Carrier
can’t be based
in Hawaii

Inadequate training facilities
and air stations are
reasons cited

By Gregg K. Kakesako


An aircraft carrier based at Pearl Harbor would have to spend 72 extra days at sea to get to training ranges in Southern California because Hawaii does not have adequate training facilities.

The Navy said it doesn't want to establish an air wing needed by a carrier in Hawaii for economic and operational reasons because it would have to:

Bullet Find an air station from which to operate.

Bullet Send the air wing to the mainland to train.

The Navy, in rejecting the possibility of berthing an aircraft carrier at Pearl Harbor, said there are "no airfields capable of permanently basing" 75 aircraft and 2,039 personnel belonging to a Navy air wing in Hawaii.

"Basing a carrier air wing in Hawaii is neither cost-effective nor operationally efficient," the Navy reported in its 10-volume environmental impact study, which outlined the options of home-porting three nuclear-powered aircraft carriers.

Under the Navy's preferred option, two Nimitz-class carriers would join the USS John Stennis at San Diego. That would likely be the USS Nimitz -- now undergoing remodernization at Newport News, Va. -- and the USS Ronald Reagan, which will be launched in either 2003 or 2004.

Carriers USS Abraham Lincoln and USS Carl Vinson would be retained in Washington state.

In arguing for the placement of a carrier in Hawaii, Stanley Hong, Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii president, noted that Gov. Ben Cayetano and the state Legislature were willing to return Barbers Point Naval Air Station's airfield to the Navy for carrier air wing use.

Hong also suggested use of Hickam Air Force Base or Marine Corps Hawaii's field at Kaneohe Bay for the air wing.

But the Navy rejected the proposal, noting that Barbers Point, which was closed as a military base on July 1, is now designated only for civilian use and that Kaneohe has been realigned to accommodate P-3 Orion sub hunter squadrons.

Hickam, the Navy added, can accommodate a portion of the air wing only on a temporary basis as its aircraft transients to or from an aircraft carrier at sea.

Also rejected as a permanent home for the air wing was Kauai's Pacific Missile Range at Barking Sands because "it is too small, with insufficient space for expansion."

As for tactical air training ranges, the Navy said that limited opportunities are available at Barking Sands and at the Pohakuloa Training Area on the Big Island.

But the air-to-surface and air-to-air training areas here are too limited or insufficient to meet the needs of a carrier battle group, the Navy said.

Pearl Harbor hasn't home-ported an aircraft carrier since World War II, and substantial dredging would be needed as well as utility upgrading and modifications.

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