February 14, 2006

US sets big naval drills in Pacific

By Jim Wolf

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States will mount this
summer its biggest show of naval power in the Pacific in at
least 10 years, with exercises involving four aircraft
carriers, the U.S. Pacific Fleet commander said on Tuesday.

The announcement by Adm. Gary Roughead was in line with
Pentagon orders unveiled this month to boost the U.S. Navy's
presence in the Pacific, said Capt. Matt Brown, a fleet

Four aircraft carrier strike groups will take part in three
separate drills, including one with a home port on the U.S.
East Coast. The exercises will start in June and continue
through August, Brown said.

Roughead said this number of U.S. aircraft carriers in the
Pacific in close proximity to one another had not occurred in
at least 10 years.

Other experts said it might be the biggest such U.S.
concentration in the region since U.S. forces withdrew from
Vietnam more than 30 years ago.

The carrier strike groups will exercise at times with other
navies in the region, Roughead said, without giving details.

The admiral said that at one point three of the U.S.
carriers would be operating together.

"And it also provides a deterrent for anyone who would wish
us ill," he told a luncheon organized by the Asia Society, a
private group that fosters ties across the region.

"The ability to move these forces around more agilely, more
rapidly, is the way that we will be operating in the future,"
Roughead added.

In a 20-year strategy blueprint made public on February 3,
the Pentagon called China the power with "the greatest
potential to compete militarily with the United States and
field disruptive military technologies that could over time
offset U.S. military advantages absent U.S. counter

The so-called Quadrennial Defense Review said the United
States was hedging against uncertainties by building new
long-range weapons; putting 60 percent of its submarines in the
Pacific, up from 50 percent now; and maintaining at least six
aircraft carriers in the Pacific.

Roughead said the scheduled 2008 basing of the
nuclear-powered carrier George Washington in Yokosuka, Japan,
also would bolster U.S. clout in the region. In addition, he
said, more U.S. forces, including Marines, would be based in
the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam.

The Washington is due to replace the conventionally powered
Kitty Hawk, the oldest active ship in the U.S. Navy.