Hawaii gets submarine, may net carrier

Hawaii will be home to a new nuclear submarine that bears its name, the U.S.S. Hawaii, and remains in the running as the potential home port of a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, according to Navy Secretary Donald Winter. The 4,800-ton, 377-foot Virginia-class submarine was christened by Gov. Linda Lingle in June and is expected to be commissioned next summer. As for the aircraft carrier, Winter said that Pearl Harbor, Guam, San Diego, and either Bremerton or Everett in Washington state are the finalists in the search for a home for the U.S.S. Carl Vinson. The carrier and its 5,000-person crew would bring a significant economic boost to its home port, but would also requires significant local resources. Addressing reporters at a media event in Honolulu, Winter said that he would make his decision by May 2007. The carrier — currently home-ported in Bremerton — is just beginning a three-year nuclear fuel replenishment and overhaul in Newport News, Va., and is expected to move to its new home in 2009. It would be the sixth U.S. carrier in the Pacific, joining two stationed in San Diego, two in Bremerton, and one in Japan.

Winter said strategic location, local training opportunities, existing infrastructure and required upgrades would be the main factors in deciding where to home port the U.S.S. Carl Vinson.

For example, Guam is nearest to the Asian regions the carrier would be expected to patrol, but would require the most construction. Its prospects are also clouded by the planned relocation of U.S. forces from Japan. Hawaii has substantial existing infrastructure, meanwhile, and is closer to Asia than the West Coast. However, Honolulu suffers from limited land availability and is said to have poor public schools, according to an Associated Press report on Winter’s remarks.

Winter’s remarks answered some of the questions raised in February, when a major Pentagon report lacked expected details on how and when the Navy would deploy its ships and forces in the Pacific. Navy officials had previously singled out Hawaii or Guam as a new home port for an aircraft carrier.

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