Saturday, February 18, 2006

Navy suspends flight ops on USS Kennedy

The US Navy has suspended operations on the USS Kennedy citing concerns over faulty equipment on the 38-year-old ship. The move drew immediate fire from the likely sources: the representatives of the State where she's based:

::::::::U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw said he was told by Navy Secretary Donald Winter that the carrier was being taken out of operation because faulty equipment could endanger pilots attempting to land on it.

"I greeted that information with surprise and skepticism in terms of the timing," said Crenshaw, whose district includes the carrier's base at Mayport Naval Station near Jacksonville.

Florida's two U.S. senators also weighed in.

"We need to repair the JFK as soon as possible, so we're not reducing our carrier fleet from 12 to 11 in a time of war," Sen. Bill Nelson said in a statement.

In the meantime, Nelson said another carrier should be moved from Norfolk, Va., to Mayport "so all our other carriers aren't sitting ducks in one port."

And so all those employees and contractors sitting on their hands in Mayport will have something to keep them employed, perhaps? That's just a wee bit too transparent, Senator. So, wanna call up Senator Warner of Virginia and ask him to figure out which Virginia employees and contractors will lose their jobs since the carrier they're servicing is being moved to Florida?

My gut instinct, however, tells me Nelson's right about simply dropping the number of carriers in the fleet. Senator Warner, who chairs the Armed Services Committee, has introduced legislation to repeal the mandate Congress passed pegging the number of carriers at 12. A study performed by the Navy concludes they can do with 11. My thought on the matter, however, is that it takes a very, very long time to build one of these guys. If the US gets into a shooting war with an enemy possessed of nukes and the ability to deploy them tactically over water the first thing they're going to aim at is the nearest carrier group. Those ships are strong and well defended but they're not strong enough to sail out the other side of a nuke strike. And while simply taking out several of our carriers won't completely cripple our capabilties it would certainly put on hurt on us. We'd have to ramp up building carriers quickly and, with the slide in shipbuilding capacity that's been going on over the past 40 years, that's not something that's going to come up quickly, either.

The Kennedy is one of the two remaining carriers that operate on conventional power as opposed to nuclear, the other being CV 64 Kitty Hawk. Kitty Hawk is to be replaced by CVN 77 George H. W. Bush. (A ship designation I'm sure will cause much frothing at the mouth over at Kos and other parts of the fever swamp. Of course, we can always just drop the "H. W." and allow the ship to stand for the current President Bush as well, if they'd like that one.) Kennedy is not slated for replacement until the build of CVX 79 which isn't scheduled to be commissioned until 2017. That's a long time...

I recommend caution in arbitrarily removing this capability from our arsenal. Let's be sure we can sustain the loss.