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Associated Press June 02, 2004

Carrier Demonstrates New Deployment Plan

By Sonja Barisic

NORFOLK, Va. - The aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman set sail Wednesday in a test of the Navy's ability to have seven of its 12 carriers away from port at the same time, a major shift away from the customary deployment of the fleet.

A second Norfolk-based carrier, the USS Enterprise, was expected to leave Thursday to participate in the exercise, dubbed "Summer Pulse 04."

The exercise continues through August with seven carriers and will include allied forces from around the world, officials said.

"The ability to push that kind of military capability to the four corners of the world is quite remarkable," Navy Secretary Gordon R. England said when he announced plans for the demonstration last week in Washington. "Several years ago, we could deploy only two" carriers at the same time.

It is the first exercise of the Navy's new Fleet Response Plan, in which ships will move away from regularly scheduled, six-month deployments and instead be prepared to leave as world events demand.

The Navy wants to be able to send six carrier strike groups in less than 30 days to handle crises anywhere in the world, while having two more carrier strike groups ready to sail within three months to reinforce or rotate with those forces.

This is "a fundamentally different way of deploying aircraft carriers than we had during the 20th century," said John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org, an Alexandria research center on security issues.

The new plan makes deployment schedules less predictable, a change necessary in a post-Sept. 11 world, said the Truman's commander, Capt. Michael R. Groothousen.

"Terrorists love predictability," he said by telephone. "If we can start putting some unpredictability into our schedule, it makes it more difficult for any threat out there to determine when to strike."


Copyright 2004, Associated Press