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23rd  Edition

June 2003

avy Playing Many Roles in War


Floating fortresses on Saddam Hussein's doorstep, the Navy warships that opened Operation Iraqi Freedom with a thunderous strike of Tomahawk cruise missiles are now launching planes that can protect ground troops by picking off a single tank or mortar emplacement.

Earlier this month, for instance, five warships in the Mediterranean passed through the Suez Canal in response to Turkey's foot-dragging in granting the U.S. over flight rights.

"Carriers give the decision makers the flexibility not to worry about this kind of thing - about over flights and about bases," Metz said by telephone from Norfolk, Va.

The five carriers deployed in the Red Sea and the eastern Mediterranean are the crown jewels in the Navy's part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

With pinpoint accuracy, F/A-18 fighter bombers taking off from the flattops have punched holes in Saddam's palaces with satellite-guided bombs. With help from ground-based air controllers, they can take out a single piece of artillery threatening U.S. troops.

Typically, the pilot receives a radio or visual signal from ground spotters, hits the release for his smart bomb and positions a diamond-shaped target indicator over the target on a screen on his instrument panel. The bomb, reading the laser signal through sensors in its nose cone, appears on the screen as a flash when it explodes.

Called close air support, this mode of combat is likely to be crucial once the battle for Baghdad gets under way.

Less sexy than the combat aircraft, but crucial to the Navy's war role, are support craft such as the EA-6B Prowler, which flies interference and jams enemy electronics, and mini-AWACS, which use their telltale saucer-shaped radar systems to provide command and control. Together with electronic battle stations on the five aircraft carriers, they bring order to what could be airborne chaos.

Helicopters perform other vital tasks. Armed with missiles and large-caliber machine-guns, Seahawks and other choppers search for submarines and mines and ride shotgun during searches of tankers or other vessels.

Their platforms - aircraft carriers like the Roosevelt - are the kings on the naval chessboard, protected by cruisers and destroyers, missiles and aircraft.

In addition, Navy submarines prowl both the eastern Mediterranean and the Gulf.

The Navy's cruisers and destroyers employ the Aegis weapons system, which uses blanketing, full-cover radar to help spot, identify and prioritize aerial threats 200 miles out, as well as dangers on the water and under the sea.

Harvey, commander of the Roosevelt battle group, said the surveillance equipment at his command allows him to keep watch over a stretch of the eastern Mediterranean as large as the distance between Jacksonville, Fla., and New York City.

"I have a very high confidence that I know what's flying, where it's flying, how high it's flying, how fast it's flying," he said. "I have very high confidence of what's on the surface of the water and what's below."

Marion Goble
(239) 768-1449
1st Vice President
Jim Dunn
(858) 566-1745


2nd Vice President
L. E (Rusty) Draper
(361) 364-1917
Kay Goble
(239) 768-1449
Membership Chairman
Tom Britt
(858) 578-8926
Marvin Watson
(402) 421-8957
Bill Martin
(281) 427-6828
Newsletter Editor
John Worman
(505) 437-9872

The Rolling Stone is a Quarterly publication of The USS Whetstone LSD-27 Association, INC.

The Association is a non profit, historical and educational organization dedicated to promoting fraternal, civic, patriotic and historical memories of those who served aboard.

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