Naval Air: February 6, 2002


U.S. Navy pilots are still flying missions over Afghanistan, even if they are not dropping as many bombs. From the air, they can notice one difference, there's a lot more cities and towns lit up at night, and a lot more traffic is on the roads. Things were a lot darker when the Taliban were in charge. One can also see the U.S. bases on the ground and American helicopters moving about. The last big action was around Tora Bora, and from the air some of the ridge lines and mountain tops looked like smoking moonscapes. When the bombs touched off ammo supplies in caves, the smoke could be seen from 50 kilometers away. With little bombing to do, the naval aviators found the process pretty boring, especially since they spend 8-9 hours in the air for each sortie. The navy is having some supply problems, the most painful one being a shortage of piddle packs (a small 20-ounce plastic bag with a ziploc top, designed for cockpit usage when the pilot has to empty his bladder). Empty plastic bottles were a desperate improvisation used until supplies were replenished. The continued need for airpower led to carriers and their escorts staying at sea without a port call for unprecedented periods. While these ships typically are away from their home port for six months at a time, they will usually make a port call every month or so to give the crews a few days of relief. When that is not possible, every 45 days each sailor gets two cans of beer. Rarely do ships stay at sea for two "beer days." But the Afghanistan war has seen ships having an unprecedented third "beer day." No one can ever remember a third "beer day" and it looks like there will be a fourth. 


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