It has come to my attention that the US Aircraft Carrier George HW Bush is due to visit the UK in late May. The Seawaves website shows her as arriving in the Solent on 27 May 2011, as part of Exercise Saxon Warrior.
The US Navy’s Nimitz class Carriers are far too large to enter Portsmouth Harbour, so usually anchor at Spithead. The best views are from the Isle of Wight, or from the Gosport Beaches from Gilkicker to Lee-on-Solent, with Browndown and Stokes Bay being closest. Some of the local tour boat companies usually run cruises out to look round the ships at anchor as well.
The USS Bush is the Flagship of the US Navy’s Carrier Strike Group Two, and hence we will in all proability see some other vessels in Portsmouth or the Solent at the same time. Currently part of CSG2 are the Cruisers USS Vella Gulf, USS Monterey and USS Leyte Gulf; Destroyers USS Truxton, USS Nitze, USS Mason, USS McFaul, USS Mahan and USS Cole; and the Frigate USS Elrod. Other ships, such as Amphibious vessels, submarines and auxiliaries are added to the Carrier Group as necessary for each mission. I have read unconfirmed reports of a US Navy Helicopter Carrier coming too, and possibly other NATO vessels.
According to information issued by the Ministry of Defence Exercise Saxon Warrior is a large, multi-phase exercise due to take place across Wales and South West England during April and May 2011. However those dates may change due to operations. Some radio enthusiast websites have suggested that parts of the exercise may involve electronic warfare and GPS jamming, something that the specialist aircraft in the Bush’s air wing might be involved in.
Let’s not get too carried away too quickly – these visits have been rumoured in the past and been cancelled, often at the last minute. Operational factors can change things, particularly when there is a conflict going on in Libya at the moment. BUT, Interestingly, President Obama is due to be in Britain while the USS Bush is in the Solent, before he goes to the G8 Summit in France in early June…