Naval build-up continues

Feb 6, 2003
Author: P&S

The build-up of US naval forces in the Persian Gulf continues, with seven warships transiting southwards through the Suez Canal on Tuesday, 4 February, a day ahead of Secretary of State Colin Powell’s 90-minute address to the United Nations Security Council on the question of Iraq’s alleged non-compliance with UN weapons inspection and arms reduction.

The latest seven ships to enter the Red Sea – all designed for assisting marine and army landings, are the amphibious assault ships USS Kearsage (LHD3), USS Bataan (LHD5) and USS Saipan (LHA2), and four dock landing vessels USS Ashland (LSD48), USS Portland (LSD37) and USS Gunston Hall (LSD44), plus one unidentified transport vessel.

Meanwhile the British fleet of 15 naval vessels spearheaded by the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal and the helicopter carrying amphibious assault ship HMS Ocean (L12) has arrived off Cyprus, opposite the Royal Air Force base at Akrotiri near the port of Limassol (which is the largest RAF base outside the UK). The fleet consists of seven warships - HMS Ark Royal (R07), HMS Ocean (L12), the destroyers HMS Edinburgh (D97), HMS Liverpool (D92) and HMS York (D98), and two type 22 frigates HMS Cornwall (F99) and HMS Northumberland (F85).

Accompanying them are eight tankers and supply vessels, with the fleet ostensibly on exercises in the Eastern Mediterranean. A week ago the nuclear submarine HMS Splendid (S112) and the frigate HMS Chatham (F87) passed south through the Suez Canal.

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