ABOARD USS HARRY S. TRUMAN, At Sea (NNS) -- Armed to the teeth with 6,000 pounds of live ordnance each, 13 aircraft aboard USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) were catapulted into the night sky toward Baghdad March 21 as part of the first wave of the "Shock and Awe" campaign of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Seen from above, the launch looked like routine flight operations, but a certain tension could be felt in the air as Sailors and Marines witnessing the evolution took into account the bombs on the planes and their eventual targets.
Friday's launch marked a significant event in Truman and naval history, as it aided the other aircraft carriers operating in the Mediterranean Sea and the Arabian Gulf with air strikes in Iraq.
The following morning, 13 more aircraft were catapulted off as part of the second wave of air strikes.
According to Capt. Mark A. Vance, commander Carrier Air Wing 3, the strikes were nothing less than perfect.
"We have planned and flown and practiced for this," he said. "Even though our mission could be completely different tomorrow, it definitely isn't something we haven't done before. This strike went very smoothly and was very successful and all the weapons went exactly where they were planned."
Although there was some anti-aircraft fire en route to the target areas, the strikes themselves did not present any problems. Cmdr. Marcus Hitchcock of Fighter Squadron (VF) 32 attributes the mission's success to constant and rigorous training. "This strike went very well; this is what we had been training the past year for," he said. "From that perspective, this mission was all textbook."
Although this might be the first time some Sailors and Marines have experienced a carrier air strike, Hitchcock is no stranger to flying these types of missions.
"During Desert Storm, I was operating out of the North Arabian Gulf, and it was far different from the opposition that we faced Friday," he said. "Compared to an operation in Desert Storm, this strike had a far greater delivery of force on Iraq."
With the war on terrorism now fully solidified, new warfare technology has also greatly changed the way air strikes are carried out when compared to the Gulf War 12 years ago.
"We can now service two-to three times the amount of targets we could during Desert Storm," said Vance. "We have new and advanced weapons that can integrate easily into our aircraft which are very precise."
Even as the uncertainty of Operation Iraqi Freedom lingers in the minds of the Truman crew, the ship will continue to fight the war on terrorism and the war for the liberation of Iraq.
For related news, visit the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn75.