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USS Truman launches its largest strike effort yet
The Virginian-Pilot ^ | 3-24-03 | By MATTHEW DOLAN

Posted on 03/24/2003 5:15:08 AM PST by Oldeconomybuyer

ABOARD THE TRUMAN -- Before dawn broke today, the Harry S. Truman's air wing launched its largest strike effort of the war, targeting mobile and fixed sites as well as suspected caches of chemical and biological weapons stored by the Iraqis.

Doused by pounding rain, three waves of F-14 Tomcats, F/A-18 Hornets and surveillance and refueling aircraft blasted off the Norfolk-based carrier.

The daylight missions started at 5 a.m. -- 10 p.m. Sunday Norfolk time. A total of 39 aircraft were expected to use Turkish airspace for the first time to cross Iraq's northern border.

``It's going to be a long trip,'' warned Cmdr. Michael Saunders, leader of six Hornets, four Tomcats and an EA-6B Prowler heading into Iraq.

Saunders said that last-minute changes altered the mission of the strike team armed with precision-guided bombs, including Joint Direct Attack Munitions.

``This was like a late-breaking ballgame,'' said Saunders, the executive officer of the VFA-37 Hornet squadron based at Virginia Beach's Oceana Naval Air Station. ``Lots of moving parts.''

The focus shifted to ``the detection and destruction of weapons of mass destruction, mobile targets, field forces, leadership and the remaining infrastructure, which is already hurt,'' he told the 2 a.m. preflight briefing filled with about 40 aviators.

At a separate briefing at 3:45 a.m., the strike leader said his two Tomcats and two Hornets would be hitting targets near Mosul, about 75 miles south of the Turkey-Iraq border.

Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Kotyk, a naval meteorologist, sketched out a forecast filled with rain and possible snow along the arch-shaped route from the eastern Mediterranean Sea to Iraq.

``I'd like to say that weather is going to be your friend today, but it's not,'' he said.

On Saturday, the Truman completed its first bombing runs on an Iraqi airfield and headquarters building in south-central Iraq. The carrier Theodore Roosevelt, also from Norfolk, joined in the aerial bombardment in other locations.

The Truman's crew had the day off from combat missions Sunday, but flew daytime training runs anyway. Late-scheduled launches were canceled in anticipation of the early-morning strikes.

At 10 p.m. Sunday -- the normal lights-out time for many of 5,500 sailors and Marines aboard the Truman -- an unidentified sailor read a prayer for those who would labor through the night to transport bombs and affix them to departing fighter jets.

``Praise the Lord, pass the ammunition,'' he said over the ship's intercom system. ``They know we're on a mighty mission.''

At press time, it was still unclear whether the Truman's fighter pilots had hit their assigned targets and whether all of the carrier's aircraft had returned safely.

The Theodore Roosevelt battle group took part in a historic operation Sunday night as Tomahawk cruise missiles were fired for the first time from surface ships in the Mediterranean Sea. Using Turkey airspace, the network said that three of the battle group's ships -- the Anzio, Cape St. George and Winston S. Churchill -- took part.

Staff writer Matthew Dolan is with the Harry S. Truman in the Mediterranean Sea. You can reach him at mdolan@pilotonline.com


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Foreign Affairs; Government; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections; US: Virginia; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: anzio; capestgeorge; cas; embeddedreport; jdams; ussharrytruman; winstonchurchill
Ordnancemen pull a satellite-guided 1,000-pound JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) bomb over the flight deck of the USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier early Monday, March 24, 2003, as planes prepare to take off for missions over Iraq (news - web sites). (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
- Mar 24 3:02 AM ET

Crew members leave the flight deck after planes took off for missions over Iraq (news - web sites), aboard the USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier, on operation in the Mediterranean Sea, early Monday, March 24, 2003. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
- Mar 24 2:56 AM ET

Hook-up operator runs away from a F/A-18 Hornet prior to take off for a mission over Iraq (news - web sites), aboard the USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier, on operation in the Mediterranean Sea, early Monday, March 24, 2003. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
- Mar 24 2:51 AM ET

Crew members work on the flight deck aboard the USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier, on operation in the Mediterranean Sea, before launching planes for missions over Iraq (news - web sites) early Monday, March 24, 2003. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
- Mar 24 2:57 AM ET

A F-14 Tomcat is prepared for take off from the USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier, on operation in the Mediterranean Sea, for a mission over Iraq (news - web sites), early Monday, March 24, 2003. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
- Mar 24 2:46 AM ET

Two crew members stand in front of the jet stream of a F/A-18 as its launched from the USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier, on operation in the Mediterranean Sea, for a mission over Iraq (news - web sites), early Monday, March 24, 2003. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
- Mar 24 2:48 AM ET

A Final Checker looks to the after burner of a F/A-18 Hornet prior to take off from the USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier, on operation in the Mediterranean Sea, for a mission over Iraq (news - web sites), early Monday, March 24, 2003. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
- Mar 24 2:47 AM ET

A flight deck safety observer watches over flight operations from the catwalk while an F-14 Tomcat lands aboard the USS Harry S. Truman Sunday, March 23, 2003 in the Mediterranean Sea. The USS Harry S. Truman is deployed conducting combat missions in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. (AP Photo/US Navy, Christopher B. Stoltz)
- Mar 24 12:06 AM ET

1 posted on 03/24/2003 5:15:08 AM PST by Oldeconomybuyer
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To: Oldeconomybuyer
Has anyone heard any explanation of the implications of destroying WMD, since we know we have to provide "irrefutable evidence" to the world in order to win the PR war?
2 posted on 03/24/2003 5:19:45 AM PST by Illbay (Don't believe every tagline you read - including this one)
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To: Illbay
"Has anyone heard any explanation of the implications of destroying WMD,"

*snort* So they can't be used on US troops!
3 posted on 03/24/2003 5:26:03 AM PST by Rebelbase (that was a no-brainer)
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To: Illbay
I guess we want to destroy the stuff that can hit us and capture the stuff that can't. Plus if some of the illegal stuff is destroyed, it's never completely destroyed. (Nazis tried to destroy the bodies of its victims but it's - frankly speaking - difficult to actually obliterate things.)
4 posted on 03/24/2003 5:28:54 AM PST by bucephalus (Baghdado Est Delenda!)
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