US sailors to set tills ringing on shore leave

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 August, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 August, 2003, 12:00am

The arrival of up to 7,000 sailors in Hong Kong tomorrow as part of the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier strike group is expected to pump tens of millions into the economy as they take shore leave.

The aircraft carrier has been deployed in the Western Pacific since February, replacing the Kitty Hawk, which entered a shipyard for maintenance after returning from the Persian Gulf.

With no other carriers available to replace the Kitty Hawk, the navy opted to deploy the Carl Vinson 'in order to maintain a responsible defensive posture in the region', a fleet spokesman said.

Most US navy strike-carrier groups and their escorts have returned to their home ports, with just one - the USS Nimitz - still deployed in the Middle East following the war in Iraq.

America's 12 aircraft carrier groups are divided between the Atlantic and the Pacific. But the navy has suggested that some forces may be moved as it restructures to respond to global threats in Asia, particularly North Korea, the Philippines and Indonesia.

On October 7, 2001, the Carl Vinson and her battle group were involved in launching the first strikes of Operation Enduring Freedom against Afghanistan.

More than 4,200 combat sorties were conducted from her decks during the war on terrorism campaign to topple the Taleban.

The carrier was then redeployed for a maintenance overhaul and named the Pacific Fleet's carrier.