Tension in the Gulf?
Navy flyboys say it's business as usual
September 8, 1996
Web posted at: 9:55 p.m. EDT (0155 GMT)
(CNN) -- Flying over the rugged
Iraqi desert, the pilots of the U.S.S. Carl Vinson have a
unique perspective on the latest military clash in Iraq.
It's their job to patrol the "no-fly zone" that President
Clinton recently extended by 90 miles to the suburbs of
Baghdad. And despite the international uproar sparked by the
recent cruise missile attacks, it's for the most part
business as usual aboard the U.S.S. Carl Vinson, where the
Navy pilots are based.
That's not to say that things aren't a bit busier than usual,
but the pilots say they aren't fazed by their expanded
responsibilities. Rather, they tend to cope with the tension
and Saddam's threats of retaliation with a no-nonsense air of
(18 sec./740K QuickTime movie of sights and sounds on board the USS Vinson)
"There's obviously more area to be concerned with," says Lt.
Cmdr. John Einhorn, an F-14 pilot. "It's a little more
dynamic. Things are a little more interesting in the short
Iraq says there were nearly one hundred allied planes in the
skies above the southern "no-fly zone" Saturday. Just how
many of those were from the Vinson's air wing, the Navy isn't
The U.S. Air Force also patrols southern Iraq, as do aircraft
of Britain and France, although French pilots are ordered
not to cross the 32nd parallel, the old boundary.
Certainly, the crew has had its hands full lately.
But the carrier's skipper says the Vinson has been hopping
ever since it arrived on station in the Gulf. "Our mission
since the tomahawk attacks has not changed," says Capt. Larry
Baucon. "We've been here a while, and we intend to stay."
Iraq says it has mounted a determined defense against the
Allied air patrols, including the firing of surface-to-air
If that's true, Navy pilots say, they haven't noticed.
"There's been a little resistance, but nothing really major,"
says Lt. Cmdr. Trey Clukey.
Perhaps only in the Persian Gulf can anti-aircraft fire be
described as "nothing really major."
But with U.S. pilots involved in conflict in the Gulf -- in
one form or another -- for most of this decade, the crew of
the Vinson can be allowed a degree of
understatement,...before they prepare to launch yet another
mission over southern Iraq.
CNN Correspondent Mark Dulmage contributed to this report
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