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Official: Kitty Hawk fully loaded for combat

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A top U.S. Defense Department official told CNN on Wednesday that the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk is fully loaded with helicopters and Special Forces for use, if needed, in combat in Afghanistan.

The Kitty Hawk was sent to the Arabian Sea from Japan in September minus its full complement of aircraft. At the time, Pentagon sources said the carrier left its aircraft behind to allow its 4.1-acre flight deck to be used as a floating military base for air and ground operations by Special Forces.

Now, said the Defense Department official, using military parlance, "she's a ready round."

The carrier left most of its attack aircraft behind at the U.S. Navy base at Yokosuka, on Japan's east coast, when it sailed in September.

Gallery: U.S. aircraft carriers 

At the time, Pentagon sources told CNN the carrier was headed to the general area of southwest Asia but would not be more specific.

One Pentagon official said the Kitty Hawk would be home to "an unconventional mix of aircraft." Another said the carrier would be used as a "lily pad" in the Indian Ocean.

"It gives us four and a half acres of sovereign U.S. territory to use as we like," the official said.

The Kitty Hawk is part of the U.S. Navy's 7th Fleet and is the only American aircraft carrier based in the western Pacific.

Other U.S. carriers in the region include the USS Enterprise, USS Carl Vinson and the USS Theodore Roosevelt. The British also have forces in the region as well.

CNN National Correspondent Bob Franken contributed to this report.


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