Navy moves missiles to Red Sea
Locale transfer needed because Turkey refuses U.S. over flight rights
From the Red Sea the cruisers, destroyers and submarines would be able to launch their Tomahawks -- typically fired in the opening hours of a war -- for flights over Saudi Arabia to targets in Iraq. The ships are part of the USS Harry S Truman and USS Theodore Roosevelt carrier battle groups, which have been operating in the eastern Mediterranean for weeks in anticipation of war against Iraq.
No decision has been made to move the carriers from the Mediterranean, but that could be a next step. Each carrier has about 80 aircraft aboard.
It had been hoped that the Tomahawks could fly across Turkey's airspace, but the Turkish government so far has not granted overflight rights.
Tomahawks are satellite-guided missiles normally used in the opening stages of war to strike high-value, fixed targets such as government buildings in areas where the risk of civilian casualties is relatively high.
The Tomahawks are designed to evade radar by skimming the land or sea surface and were designed in the mid-1980s. Following the Gulf War, they became one of the U.S. weapons of choice to respond to Iraqi breaches of U.N. sanctions.
The issue of overflight rights for U.S. missiles and planes has been overshadowed by the Bush administration's struggle to win Turkey's approval to base 60,000 or more U.S. troops there to open a northern front against Iraq.
The Turkish parliament rejected the U.S. request for basing rights earlier
this month, and Pentagon officials said Thursday it appeared increasingly
unlikely that the Army would position its 4th Infantry Division in Turkey, as
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