US warship at anchor off Gosport

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Published: Monday 23rd March 2015 by The News Editor

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One of the world’s largest warships is currently at anchor off the UK’s south coast as it is too big to enter one of the Royal Navy’s major bases.

The USS Theodore Roosevelt, one of ten Nimitz class aircraft carriers in the US fleet, arrived at Portsmouth, Hampshire, yesterday for a five-day visit.

The 100,000-tonne ship, nicknamed Big Stick, will remain off Stokes Bay, Gosport, Hampshire, for the duration of its first port of call in its round-the-world deployment.

The ship is substantially larger than the Royal Navy’s next generation of carriers which weigh in at 65,000 tonnes.

Its 5,226 crew are set to generate an economic boom for the area as they are ferried ashore looking to enjoy some rest and recuperation by visiting local attractions such as HMS Victory and other highlights further afield including Stonehenge and London.

Commander Paul Bowditch, the ship’s navigator, said: “We are really excited to be here in Portsmouth. Personally I can’t wait to have some of your fish and chips and a lot of folks want to see Victory and a lot of folk are going up to London to see the sites and the history.

“One way or another all of us have our ties back to here and for all of us it’s exciting to come back and see the sheer history. We have a couple of hundred years of history in the US and just coming in here we saw sea forts which were built in the 1700s and are still standing and that’s one of the greatest things.”

The visit is the first since it has undergone a major refit and it was last at Portsmouth in 2009 in its last port of call before returning to the US for the refurbishment work.

The ship left its former base of Norfolk, Virginia, on March 11 and will return to its new home of San Diego at the end of the autumn.

The carrier has been part of an ongoing partnership between the Royal Navy and US on carrier operations until the first of the new carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth, enters service in 2017.

Among Roosevelt’s crew are six Royal Navy aircraft handlers who are honing their skills ahead of serving aboard the first of the new carriers.

Senior officers will call on Royal Navy top brass during the visit to discuss recent global operations and get an update on the UK’s carrier programme.

The Royal Navy’s First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir George Zambellas, said: “It is excellent to see US Navy carrier steel in Portsmouth. And in barely two years we will see UK carrier steel here too.

“We warmly welcome the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group – a reflection of the close partnership between our nations and navies, and the value of credible sea power in support of our shared national interests.

“Across the spectrum – from Type 45 destroyers providing area air defence for US carriers launching air strikes against Isil, to generous US support as we regenerate our own carrier strike capability – our common bond has never been richer.”

The Roosevelt is accompanied by its escort ship, the destroyer Winston S Churchill, which traditionally has a UK navigator on board to honour the ship’s British connection and the post is currently held by 27-year-old Lieutenant Lynsey Sewell.

Admiral Andrew Lewis, commander of the Theodore Roosevelt carrier strike group, said that his troops were ready for their forthcoming mission combating IS in the Middle East as part of the ship’s year-long deployment.

He said: “We are as ready, if not more, than we have ever been. I have spent a considerable amount of time in the Middle East in the past 20 years and this is by far the most prepared we have been.”

He added: “We are not in the business of going out looking for a fight but when it’s time, we going out there to win.”

Admiral Lewis said that the Royal Navy’s Type 45 destroyer HMS Duncan would be joining it during the operation in the Gulf.

Praising the relationship between the US Navy and Royal Navy, he added: “The relationship at the tactical level is better than it has ever been and we enjoy the opportunity to work with our oldest ally.”

And speaking of the visit to Portsmouth, Admiral Lewis said: “We are really excited at seeing the sites, it’s a great place to go. We have seen bus-loads going ashore, over 5,000 tour tickets have been sold.”

Published: Monday 23rd March 2015 by The News Editor

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