The American carrier USS Enterprise recently returned from 30 weeks
at sea. It was an unusual voyage, as the carrier managed to serve in four
different fleets (2nd, 6th, 5th and 7th) along the way, as well as seeing
combat in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Enterprise aircraft only dropped four
bombs in Iraq, while dropping 133 in Afghanistan ( during a six week period of
supplying air support for the fighting there). Enterprise aircraft were in the
air for 23,000 hours (52 percent of the time in a combat zone) during those 30
weeks. The Afghan operations were the most strenuous, because Afghanistan is
landlocked, and pilots must fly far inland to reach the combat zones. Those
sorties lasted six hours or more, and an average of 17 aircraft a day were sent
in. Aircraft did reconnaissance for troops on the ground, as well as dropping
bombs. In Iraq, aircraft spent nearly all their time doing recon, or electronic
warfare (zapping roadside bomb detonators, or searching for enemy
transmissions.) One unusual aspect of this voyage was that no one was killed.
Normally, there is at least one death on a deployment that long. The Enterprise
was escorted by a cruiser, destroyer and frigate.