USS John F. Kennedy docks at Souda Bay

Aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy, the ship that on January 1 last year was named the «Carrier of the New Millennium,» docked yesterday morning at the port facilities of the US naval base at Souda Bay, Crete. The carrier, currently in its 17th deployment since it was commissioned on September 7, 1968, has a crew of more than 5,000 sailors, including the pilots and ground crews of the embarked air wing. According to base officials, the ship arrived at Souda Bay at 10 a.m. from the United States and its port visit will last a couple of days. The ship, which was originally designed as an attack aircraft carrier (CVA 67), later changed its classification to CV 67, indicating the ship was capable of supporting anti-submarine warfare aircraft and thus making it an all-purpose, multi-mission carrier. It has seen action in Beirut, Lebanon, Libya and Iraq during «Operation Desert Shield.» The «Big John,» as it is known in the US naval community, last year underwent brief, but extensive repairs, which included the installation of advanced electronics equipment. As a test of Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC), the ship is the flagship of the most technologically advanced battle group in history. CEC enables battle group ships and aircraft to share sensor data and provide a single, integrated picture to all. With the new systems, the aircraft carrier can see and respond, with fire-control accuracy, to air contacts further from the ship than had previously been possible. The USS John F. Kennedy is one of the largest carriers in active service in the US Navy, with 23 stories, a length of 1,052 feet (345 meters), and a flight deck that covers an area of 4.65 acres (1.88 hectares or 18,800 square meters). The carrier is the flagship of the USS John F. Kennedy Carrier Battle Group, comprising a destroyer squadron with six ships, an amphibious readiness group with three vessels, and five additional warships. Two attack submarines are also deployed along with the battle group. Aboard the Big John is Carrier Air Wing 7 (CVW 7), which embarked out of Oceana, Virginia and commands nine aircraft units featuring F-14 and FA-18 fighter jets and S-3 anti-submarine warfare aircraft. The ship, which has its home port at Mayport, Florida, is expected to leave Crete by the end of the week and cross the Suez Canal into the Arabian Sea, where it will relieve the Norfolk-based USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), which deployed in September.

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