- The Navy is relieving the captain of the aircraft carrier
USS John F. Kennedy in connection with a collision with
a small boat in the Persian Gulf in July.
In the crash, a dhow smashed into the
starboard hull the Kennedy. No survivors from the traditional
Arab sailing boat were found. The dhow's origin, cargo
and destination are unknown.
The Kennedy itself was unscathed, but
two jet fighters on the deck were damaged when one slid
into the other as the carrier made a hard turn to avoid
the small boat, Navy officials said.
Capt. Stephen B. Squires, the commander
of the Mayport, Fla.,-based Kennedy, will be temporarily
assigned to duties in the United States, a statement from
the Bahrain-based 5th Fleet says.
A Navy spokesman said Squires' removal
from command was temporary pending the completion of an
investigation into the collision.
Adm. David C. Nichols Jr., the 5th Fleet's commander,
will formally relieve Squires on Friday, the Navy said.
The captain will be replaced by Capt. John W. Miller,
who previously commanded the carrier USS Constellation,
which was decommissioned last year.
The Kennedy is the only carrier operating
in the Persian Gulf. Officials said its operations have
been unaffected by the July 22 collision.
Navy officials said the collision appears
to have been accidental, but acknowledged it raised the
specter of terrorist attacks against U.S. warships at
sea, particularly because a small boat was able to penetrate
the carrier's defenses to strike its hull.
The deadliest terrorist attack on a U.S.
ship in the Gulf came on Oct. 12, 2000, when a bomb-carrying
boat rammed the hull of the USS Cole, a destroyer, in
the port of Aden, Yemen. Seventeen sailors were killed.
Senior al-Qaida operatives directed the attack.
past April 24, a dhow approached an Iraqi oil platform
in the Gulf. A Coast Guard patrol vessel, the USS Firebolt,
launched a small boat to intercept it. When the small
U.S. craft approached, the dhow exploded, killing two
U.S. sailors and a Coast Guardsman.
At roughly the same time, two speedboats
approached a different oil terminal in the area. Security
guards opened fire on them before the boats exploded.
A previous captain of the Kennedy lost
his command in late 2001 when the ship failed an inspection.