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SA Air Force leaves blue footprints in the ‘Big Stick’

SA Historic Visit To The USS Theodore Roosevelt (USS TR) Aircraft Carrier: 3 October 2008.

By Amn Tebogo E. Kekana, AD ASTRA Magazine

South Africa took part at a historic event when Brig Gen Pierre du Plessis, Director Combat Systems and Brig Gen Tersia Jacobs, Director Corporate Staff Services had the privilege of representing the SA Air Force during a tour on the USS Theodore Roosevelt, also generally known as the ‘Big Stick’.

The two Directors were part of a big remarkable elite because an occurrence of this nature takes place after every 40 years. The South African delegation included Members of Parliament, the Department of Defence (CSANDF and Sec Def personnel), the SA Police Services and different media houses.

It nearly went sour though because the original intent was that they meet at Signature Aviation situated at Cape Town International Airport and fly with two COD aircraft to the ship that was still on its way to Cape Town at that stage. However, due to 14 feet swells at sea and safety reasons, the flights were called off between 11:00 – 12:00. Members of the delegation withdrew and D Combat S and DCSS board the King Air in order to sadly return to Pretoria.

The aircraft engines were already running when a USA military member indicated to the D Combat S and DCSS that, although fixed wing operations were cancelled for the day, rotary wing operations could proceed and therefore two USA maritime helicopters were tasked to come and fetch the delegation.

That came down as a sigh of relief and good news and then the delegation toured the ship for two hours. They proudly watched two Oryx helicopters from the SA Air Force (22 Sqn) practicing deck landings on the ship. The delegation toured through the aircraft hangar and was briefed on interesting facts like supply chain management, Command and Control operations, catering services and how the ship is anchored.

Interesting facts on the USS Theodore Roosevelt include: 

  • The Officer Commanding of the ship is Capt (N) C.L. Wheeler.

  • The Strike Group Commander on the ship is R Adm (JG).

  • There is a tourist office on the ship where people can book / pay for tourist activities in advance.

  • Food supplies are taken in every 10 days.

  • Food is ordered in advance and 60 large containers are shipped to the harbor where it will be lifted.

  • The Supply Support Officers are Lt Col and 14 Supply Support Officers report to them.

  • The Support Personnel on the ship is ± 550, whilst the rest of the ± 5000 personnel are in core musterings.

  • The ship has a capability to make fresh water from seawater and has the capacity to maintain 400 000 liters of fresh water on a continuous basis. It is important to remember that the ships aircraft must be washed more often to combat aircraft corrosion.
     The USS TR is currently only carrying 57 aircraft on board.
    A sub-marine, 4 x frigates and a support ship are accompanying the USS TR.
    The support ship is responsible to dispose of all rubbish on a regular base, in line with international law/regulations.

  • Speed: 30+ knots (34,5+ miles per hour). i.e. approximately 64 km/h.

  • Length: Flight deck: 1,092 feet. i.e. (333m).

  • Height: (keel to mast top): 244 feet (equal to a 24 story building). i.e. (74m).

  • Landing area: About 750 feet (compared to 10,000 feet at an airport). i.e. (228m).

  • Arresting wires capability: Can stop a 50,000 lb aircraft.

  • Anchors: Number of anchors – Two.

  • Weight – 30 tons each.

  • Weight of anchor links – 350 pounds each.

  • Propellers: Number of propellers – Four.

  • Height – 21 feet each.

  • Daily meals served: 18,600.

  • Number of compartments: More than 3,200.

The SA delegation ready to walk to the helicopter for their return flight.
The ship should qualify as one of the wonders of the world. This emphasis the words of Rene Descartes’ saying that it is not enough to have a good mind, the main thing is to use it well.

Note: See a scanned copy of USS Theodore Roosevelt magazine.

Ends/ tek

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