GREGG K. KAKESAKO / GKAKESAKO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Aircrews on the carrier USS John Stennis prepared to launch an F-14 Tomcat jet yesterday afternoon during operations 100 miles south of Oahu.
Navy ready for
The multinational drill tests
the readiness of U.S. and allied
forces around the Pacific
NEARLY 100 MILES SOUTH OF OAHU » Almost 60 percent of the 3,500 men and women who sail on one of the Navy's newest nuclear aircraft carriers, USS John Stennis, enlisted after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Tuesday, June 29, 2004
A Navy F/A-18 Hornet was shown in a photo just after it landed on the aircraft carrier USS John Stennis Sunday. A photo caption on Page A3 in yesterday's early edition incorrectly labeled the plane as an F-14 Tomcat.
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The events also changed the way the Navy prepares for war, said Rear Adm. Patrick Walsh, who commands seven warships, including the Stennis, that make up Carrier Group Seven.
June 29-July 27
Participants: More than 18,000
Aircraft: Nearly 100
Economic value to Hawaii: $25 million
It was believed before 9/11 that "a routine predictable deployment pattern" would be deterrent enough, Walsh told reporters yesterday from the bridge of the Stennis.
"What we learned after 9/11," he said, "was that predictability now becomes our vulnerability. ... The Navy today is responding to the world we live in."
Instead of only having two or three carriers at sea at one time as it did in the past, the Navy's new Fleet Response Plan calls for launching six carrier strike groups in less than 30 days to support any operation in the world. In addition, two more carrier groups are supposed to be ready to reinforce or rotate with the initial forces in three months or respond to another crisis.
As part of that plan, the Pentagon sent the 1,092-foot Stennis and six other carriers to sea this summer to test that concept.
Walsh said the Rim of the Pacific -- or RIMPAC -- exercise, which begins tomorrow and runs through July 27, further ensures that the U.S. Navy can work with its Pacific allies.
This year's exercise -- the 19th in the series of RIMPAC naval war games -- will bring to Hawaii 40 ships, seven submarines and nearly 100 aircraft from the maritime forces of Australia, Canada, Chile, Japan, South Korea and the United Kingdom. Observers nations include Ecuador, Malaysia, Mexico, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore and Thailand.
Two years ago, the war on terrorism scaled back the RIMPAC naval war maneuvers where only 30 ships and 24 aircraft came to Hawaii. Less than 11,000 military personnel from eight nations took part.
This year, 17,900 sailors, airmen, Marines and the five-week-long maritime exercise will drop up to $25 million into the state's economy. The Stennis alone will bring 3,500 sailors and another 2,500 aviators and aircrew members from San Diego for the war games.
Among the 500 women who serve on the Stennis are Airmen Jill Covell and Lehua Galletes, who enlisted in the Navy last year.
Galletes, a 2002 Kau High School graduate, said a Navy career gave her the chance to leave the Big Island.
Covell, 21, who was attending Leeward Community College and working at Pearl Harbor as a lifeguard, said she likes the Navy because "It will help me get the college credits I want and get back to Hawaii where I want to live."
The overall coordination of the war games will be directed by Vice Adm. Michael McCabe, who normally commands the Navy's Third Fleet.
A Navy statement said the purpose of the war games is to enhance the proficiency of the seven Pacific Rim nations to work together.
The U.S. Navy will have the largest force, with 13,650 personnel, 20 vessels, three nuclear attack submarines, 10 types of aircraft and two types of helicopters. The next-largest contingent is the Japanese with 1,250 sailors, three destroyers, one submarine one P3-C Orion subhunter.
The smallest participant will be the United Kingdom, with 50 people and one Nimrod maritime reconnaissance aircraft.