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Ships Were in Position for Odyssey Dawn, CNO Says

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While Operation Odyssey Dawn brewed up quickly, the U.S. Navy already was positioned for operations over Libya, the chief of naval operations (CNO) said March 23.

CNO Adm. Gary Roughead told the Defense Writers Group that having Navy ships and submarines in the Mediterranean Sea enabled a quick response to the order that began Operation Odyssey Dawn.

"The need, for example in the opening rounds, for the Tomahawk strikes, the shooters were already in place," Roughead said. "They were already loaded, and that went off as we expected it would."

Roughead said he is pleased overall with the operation so far. The actions against Libya marked the first time the converted ballistic missile submarine USS Florida (SSGN 728) was used in combat, and basing the coalition's joint task force aboard the USS Mount Whitney (LCC/JCC 20) has provided flexibility, he added.

CNO also said he is pleased with the performance of the EA-18G Growler, the Navy's newest electronic warfare aircraft. The five-jet squadron had been flying missions over Iraq, but was quickly moved and began flying missions in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn just 47 hours after recovering from operations over Iraq.

He also praised the tactical recovery of two F-15E Strike Eagle Airmen who ejected over Libya when their jet had mechanical problems. The USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) launched a V-22 Osprey that got in quickly and made the recovery, he said.

"The way it came together, the synchronicity of operations, the involvement and coordination among the different participants [went] quite well," he added.

Roughead said the Navy can continue supporting operations as long as it takes.

"That's what you get when you have a global Navy that's forward all the time," he said. "We don't surge, and we don't ride to the sound of the guns. We're there, and when the guns go off, we're ready to conduct combat operations, or, as you see in Japan, ready to conduct some pretty extensive humanitarian operations."

In the run-up to the operations, the admiral told the group, the Joint Chiefs of Staff deliberated on the military actions that would be required. Roughead said he was particularly concerned about Moammar Gadhafi's integrated air and missile defense system. Though the system was old, he said, "I don't take any of that for granted. If someone is going to put a missile in the air, you don't say, 'Oh, it's an old one, I'll worry about it later.'"

Roughead said logistics was another concern, but the Navy's robust presence in the Mediterranean comes with re-supply ships afloat and depots ashore. The global supply chain has worked well, he said, adding that he anticipates no problem in keeping operations going.

From a funding standpoint, Roughead said operations are not especially costly.

"When you look at the expenses of what we in the Navy incurred, given the fact that we were already there, those costs are 'sunk' for me. I'm already paying for that," he said.

The service did incur additional flying hours, and the Tomahawks will be replaced from the existing inventory, Roughead said. More than 3,200 Tomahawks are in the inventory, and the missiles used in the operation represent "relatively minor increases in cost," he added.

Article by Jim Garamone, American Forces Press Service