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08-29-03, 06:44 AM
August 28, 2003

Enterprise departure delayed

By Sonja Barisic
Associated Press

NORFOLK, Va. — Maintenance issues delayed the carrier Enterprise’s departure Thursday morning for training and the first deployment of a Navy carrier since major hostilities ended in Iraq in April.
The nuclear-powered ship is expected to sail from Norfolk Naval Station later Thursday, with about 5,000 sailors and Marines aboard. The time was not disclosed for security reasons.

“They’re tweaking some maintenance issues,” said Cmdr. Ernest Duplessis, spokesman for the Second Fleet.

Duplessis did not immediately have further details but added that it is not uncommon for ships to get underway a little late to make sure all systems are ready. “That’s fleet operations,” he said.

Mechanical problems aboard the 40-year-old aircraft carrier already delayed training by several weeks.

In January, a minor mechanical problem forced the Norfolk-based aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt to depart five hours late for training exercises that culminated in deployment.

The Enterprise is to be the first carrier not to train at Vieques since the Navy stopped using the Puerto Rican island earlier this year, after nearly 60 years of U.S. bombing exercises, because of protests from residents.

The Enterprise will sail with three other warships and a destroyer from Argentina for a month of training exercises off the East Coast. The ships then will head directly to the Mediterranean Sea and possibly the Persian Gulf.

The deployment is expected to last a little longer than the standard six months as the Navy tries to get its carriers back onto a regular deployment cycle post-war, Duplessis said. The Navy wants to keep deployments close to six months but must be flexible to meet operation needs, he said.

The carrier strike group is made up of the Norfolk-based Enterprise; Air Wing 1, from Oceana Naval Air Station in Virginia Beach; the guided missile cruisers USS Philippine Sea and USS Gettysburg, based in Mayport, Fla.; and the combat logistics ship USS Detroit, from Earle, N.J.

The strike group is about a third the size of traditional battle groups formed during the Cold War.

The Sarandi, from Argentina, will join the Enterprise for the training and part of the deployment to build interaction between the U.S. and Argentine navies, the Navy said.

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press.