Pentagon Sends in Carrier Battle Group
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Apr. 5, 1999 Pentagon officials announced April 3 that Defense Secretary William S. Cohen had directed the Theodore Roosevelt battle group to remain in the Mediterranean to support Operation Allied Force.
The added firepower will increase NATO's ability to carry out a greater number of strikes, Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon said. The battle group was diverted from its scheduled deployment to the Persian Gulf to replace the USS Enterprise, he noted. The USS Kitty Hawk is now slated for the Persian Gulf.
The USS Theodore Roosevelt, a nuclear-powered carrier, is one of the most modern in the fleet, according to Bacon. The battle group includes two guided missile cruisers, the USS Leyte Gulf and the USS Vella Gulf; a guided missile destroyer, the USS Ross; a guided missile frigate, the USS Halyburton; a fast combat support ship, the USS Arctic; and an attack submarine, the USS Albuquerque.
Other U.S. ships taking part in the operation include: the USS Philippine Sea, a cruiser, the USS Nicholson and USS Gonzales, both destroyers, and the USS Norfolk and USS Miami, both attack submarines. All five are capable of launching cruise missiles. NATO's Standing Naval Forces Mediterranean, led by its flagship the USS Thorn destroyer, is in the Adriatic Sea.
The United States has also deployed 12 more F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighters that are soon to arrive in theater. Unmanned Predator surveillance drones have begun operations, and the Hunter UAV should begin operations next week. Recently deployed U.S. B-1 bombers have begun bombing Serb staging areas and other targets within Kosovo, Bacon said.
"Every day the Yugoslav army sets up a series of staging areas where they bring fuel trucks together and other repair and provisioning trucks, and then they cycle through their armor, personnel carriers and artillery to resupply their forces," Bacon explained. "These staging areas are not constant places. They move around. ... Obviously we look hard for these staging areas. The B-1 is well equipped to deal with those types of wide-area targets."
Allied forces have attacked units, barracks and headquarters, Bacon said. "We've attacked by now, 11 VJ [army] and MUP [special police] headquarters," he said. Supply lines, petroleum facilities, bridges and other communication and transportation elements are increasingly being attacked in an attempt to isolate Serb military units in Kosovo, he said.
The strikes "clearly are having some impact on command and control," Bacon said. "We're seeing some morale problems in the army. The forces are clearly more wary of being hit. They've had to disperse more and having a harder time operating in large, coherent units. And we think that over time there will be problems with supply."
Throughout the air campaign, Bacon admitted, weather has been consistently "lousy and that has had a big impact on the number of strikes we've been able to carry out." But bad weather can't last forever, he added.
Overall, U.S. and NATO officials believe the air campaign "is having the desired effect of degrading and diminishing the Serb forces' ability to continue their operations," Bacon said. The Serbs have reserve stores of fuel and other supplies, but allied forces are attacking those stocks and preventing them from resupplying, he said. "This is going to take some time," Bacon said. "We've said that from the beginning. And we are prepared to stay the course."