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Pentagon May Shift Two Aircraft Carriers to Red Sea - 2003-03-12

Defense officials may shift two aircraft carrier battle groups into the Red Sea for use in a possible war with Iraq.

At the moment, the two carrier battle groups in question are in the eastern Mediterranean.

But use of their airpower in the event of a war with Iraq could be severely restricted if Turkey fails to grant overflight rights.

That is why Pentagon officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, say the two carriers, the Theodore Roosevelt and the Harry Truman, could be moved into the northern end of the Red Sea.

Their fighter-bombers could then overfly Saudi Arabia en route to targets in Iraq.

The Navy has positioned five carriers in all for use against Iraq. In addition to the two vessels now in the Mediterranean, three others are deployed in the Arabian Sea.

Each carries some 45 strike aircraft. Military analysts estimate each vessel's planes could hit 700 targets a day.

These will be joined by bombers and other land-based aircraft poised to attack Iraq from several locations in the region, including Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

Pentagon planners say they expect an overwhelming air assault on Iraqi targets if hostilities commence, generating what analysts describe as a "shock and awe" effect intended to quickly subdue any resistance.