Korean journalists welcomed aboard U.S. “city at sea”On March 30, a C-2A Greyhound military transport plane flew a group of reporters to visit the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln, a nuclear powered aircraft carrier visiting the Korean peninsula to take part in an annual joint U.S. and Korean military exercise conducted from March 25-31.
This was the carrier’s first time in Korean waters. The joint exercise, called “Reception, Staging, Onward Movement and Integration” (RSOI) ― is held every year to coordinate military training between South Korean and U.S. forces and judge their readiness for a possible North Korean invasion. This year’s drill involved 25,000 U.S. soldiers. Two high-speed ships also participated while South Korean and U.S. marines for the first time practiced landing maneuvers together from the Yellow Sea.
Before sailing to Korea, the Abraham Lincoln took part in drills in Hawaii for reacting to possible attack from enemy submarines, one of five American carriers that would be dispatched to the Korean peninsula in a time of need. Both exercises were aimed to improve the U.S. military’s ability to send forces scattered around the globe into a crisis area ― the concept called “strategic flexibility” of U.S. troops.
The Abraham Lincoln does not operate on its own but is part of an aircraft carrier group that includes an Aegis-class cruiser, two nuclear-powered submarines and two destroyers.
Landing on the deck of an aircraft carrier could not be more different from a plane’s arrival at an airport. Although the vast deck is 1,029 feet long, it is much shorter than the length of the average airport runway. The reporters’ plane failed its first attempt to land, as a hook at the rear of the plane failed to catch a steel cable attached to the landing deck. The cable is there to rein in landing planes, coming in at speeds of 200 kilometers (124 miles) per hour, to prevent them from overshooting into the sea.
The second attempt succeeded.
An aircraft carrier is, by definition, a moving air base. Reaching a top speed of more than 30 knots, the Abraham Lincoln is home to state-of-the art fighter planes such as the F/A-18 Hornet and EA-6B, which on the day of the reporters’ visit were busy taking off and landing. A colonel stationed at a tower high above a corner of the landing deck controlled and commanded all the activities taking part below him.
Not all the aircraft on board the carrier are on deck at any time; they remain parked in below decks-hangars in the carrier’s massive hold until needed. The Abraham Lincoln can carry up to 85 planes; during this visit to Korea, it brought 70 along. Among the planes were E-2C AIWACS and SH-60 helicopters, used for anti submarine warfare. The EA-6B planes are used for electronic warfare, protecting the carrier’s own planes from enemy radar while in the air.
Planes also cannot take off from the deck under their own steam. Each plane gets shot from the ship by a steam-pressured catapult that launches it from the deck at a speed of 300 kilometers per hour in only one to two seconds. The Abraham Lincoln has four catapults which can launch four planes at one-minute intervals.
The aircraft carrier is home to 5,600 people ― virtually a small city at sea. Once sailing, it can operate without taking on supplies for three months, feeding its crew four meals per day and making 1,500 tons of fresh water each day from seawater.
To serve the medical needs of so many people, the carrier is equipped with three surgical operating rooms, where eight doctors can treat up to 70 patients a day. It has two nuclear reactors capable of generating enough power to supply electricity to 100,000 homes.
The Abraham Lincoln cost 4.5 trillion won ($4.7 billion) to build, and is maintained at a cost of 500 billion won yearly. It’s keel was laid Nov. 3, 1984, and the ship was commissioned in 1989.
The U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln is America’s fifth Nimitz-class aircraft carrier. The ship was named in honor of the 16th president of the United States and is the second ship in the U.S. Navy to bear that name.
It served in the Iraq War during 2003, where its planes flew 16,500 sorties in a span of 10 months. The Abraham Lincoln’s home port is Everett, Wash.
by Lee Hyun-sang