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More ships deploy from San Diego

Several more carriers could get orders next week

From Jamie McIntyre
CNN

Family members of Marines and sailors deploying to the Persian Gulf region Friday watch from the docks in San Diego.
Family members of Marines and sailors deploying to the Persian Gulf region Friday watch from the docks in San Diego.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Navy is deploying seven more ships Friday with nearly 10,000 Marines and sailors in place for the Persian Gulf region.

This, as Pentagon sources tell CNN that additional carriers are included in deployment orders prepared for, but not yet signed by, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Pentagon officials said.

The ships involved in the deployment from California on Friday include the USS Bonhomme Richard, which was loaded earlier this week, and the USS Boxer. Hovercraft are being moved to the Bonhomme Richard from Camp Pendleton.

The overall movement of naval craft underway could put as many as six carriers within striking distance of Iraq by sometime next month.

Despite indications that U.N. inspections in Iraq could continue into March, there has been no slowdown of the deployment of tens of thousands of troops, hundreds of planes, and dozens of warships, Pentagon sources said. (More on inspections)

"In fact, if anything we are expediting deployments," a senior official told CNN.

The Pentagon said the additional deployments are part of an overall plan to build up forces at a "steady rate" and are not in response to the discovery of empty chemical warheads in Iraq by U.N. inspectors Thursday. (Full story)

Possible orders next week

Among the carrier battle groups that could get orders as soon as next week are:

• The USS Kitty Hawk in Yokosuka, Japan.

• The USS Abraham Lincoln in Perth, Australia.

• The USS Theodore Roosevelt, now conducting pre-deployment exercises off the coast of Puerto Rico.

• The USS George Washington currently on 96-hour alert in Norfolk, Virginia.

Humvees are offloaded from the U.S. military cargo ship 1st Lt. Baldomero Lopez, which docked at a Kuwait port on Friday.
Humvees are offloaded from the U.S. military cargo ship 1st Lt. Baldomero Lopez, which docked at a Kuwait port on Friday.

In addition, sources say the USS Carl Vinson could be ordered to the Pacific region to provide a carrier presence near the Korean peninsula.

Already in the region are the USS Harry S. Truman in the Mediterranean Sea, and the USS Constellation in the Persian Gulf.

During the 1991 Persian Gulf War the United States deployed six carrier battle groups, stationing three in the Red Sea and three in the Persian Gulf.

Those carriers were the USS America, the USS Saratoga and the USS John F. Kennedy in the Red Sea, and USS Theodore Roosevelt, USS Ranger, and USS Midway in the Persian Gulf.


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