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Nimitz captain: India free to conduct radiation surveys

FIRST VISIT: An F/a-18 lands aboard USS Nimitz on Sunday as the aircraft carrier was cruising its way to the Chennai Port.

FIRST VISIT: An F/a-18 lands aboard USS Nimitz on Sunday as the aircraft carrier was cruising its way to the Chennai Port.   | Photo Credit: — Photo: V. Ganesan

R.K. Radhakrishnan

Aircraft carrier will anchor today off an Indian port for the first time

ON BOARD THE USS NIMITZ: Late on Monday afternoon, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier of the United States Navy, the USS Nimitz, will anchor off an Indian port for the first time, amid apprehensions of radiation safety and protests by Left parties.

On Sunday afternoon, the aircraft carrier was just over 100 nautical miles south east of Chennai and headed towards the “recommended port” because of the “monsoon season” elsewhere. Briefing presspersons flown in from the Chennai airport, Commander, Carrier Strike Group 11, Rear Admiral John Terence Blake, said the crew looked forward to the “friendship visit,” to “foster military-military relations” and “to develop the partnership with the [Indian] Navy.”

United States Ambassador to India David C. Mulford would also be here and the U.S. Naval officers would interact with their Indian counterparts, apart from taking part in community activities.

“Our crew has donated out of their own pockets Rs. 1.6 lakh to help with some of the community relations projects,” he said.

Commanding Officer Capt. Michael C. Manazir said that ideally he would have liked to come into the Chennai port. But the turning radius was not sufficient for a ship of the size of the Nimitz, which was 1092 feet long and 252 feet wide.

Asked if they had heard about India conducting its own radiation surveys in the vicinity of the aircraft carrier, Rear Admiral Blake said India was free to conduct its own radiation surveys in Indian waters. “Anybody can test any water or any air outside the force protection zone,” said Capt. Manazir. “I would maintain a perimeter around the ship. I would make sure there would be no threat … Therefore anyone closing in on my ship I will have to look at from a force protection perspective. Not a threat. But I need to consider that. Outside of that perimeter, quite frankly sir, it is international waters … We take great pains to see to it that we do not pollute the environment,” he said.

No ground support

Asked what kind of support the Nimitz was providing for operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, Rear Admiral Blake said the support was given when the Nimitz was deployed in the Persian Gulf and the nearby seas.

The ship was no longer providing support to the ground forces in both the countries, he said.

Capt. Manazir said there was no impact on the morale of the crew because of the protests by some political parties.

“The morale of the crew is very, very high.” He said that there has been no incident involving a nuclear-powered carrier in the long history and there was no cause for concern.

Capt. Manazir said the crew and officers brought their entire families on board when they were back home. “We would not bring our families on board if there was any safety concern … There is no danger to the public or the crew … We do not discharge any radioactive waste into the environment. We are very, very careful.”

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