What Happened with the Aircraft Carrier?

The USS Gerald R. Ford embarked on the first of its sea trials. (Ridge Leoni/U.S. Navy via AP)

By Antonis H. Diamataris

We all believed last week, that the U.S. was on the verge of a pre-emptive attack on North Korea.

It was not our imagination. Statements by high-ranking American officials, first and foremost by President Trump, were clear: Our patience – “strategic patience” as Vice President Pence described it – with North Korea is over. We will not stand idly by while it develops nuclear weapons with a radius of action that reaches the American shores.

“We are sending an armada” to the region, the president stated in reference to the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier which was heading toward the Korean peninsula. The message was clear to everyone.
“North Korea is looking for trouble,” the president added. “If China decides to help, that would be great. If not, we will solve the problem without them! U.S.A.”

But he did not stop at that. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, he stated: “I said (to Xi Jinping – President of China) ‘Look, we have ships headed there. He says he knows it very well. I said not only are there aircraft carriers, we have the nuclear subs, which you have to let him know.’” (“Him” was North Korean leader Kim Jong-un)

(The reference to the subs is considered a major mistake of disclosing state secrets since the submarine movements are never disclosed).

Similar statements highlighting the president’s determination were also made by the White House press secretary, the president’s national security advisor, as well as the Secretary of Defense.

Referring to the aircraft carrier, Defense Secretary James Mattis stated that “she’s on her way up there [toward the Korean Peninsula] because that’s where we thought it was most prudent to have her at this time” and that “the mission was designed to provide the president with a full list of alternatives” for removing the risk presented by North Korea.

In fact, all officials stated that the President’s “unpredictability” is a new glimmer of hope, making our country’s opponents wonder when and how the US would react.
Except there was one problem.
Not only was the aircraft carrier, not headed towards the Korean peninsula, but instead was sailing in the opposite direction, to take part in joint exercises with the Australian Navy.

Various explanations were given when the truth was finally revealed.

So what happened? How was it possible to “lose” an aircraft carrier?

The most likely explanation is that the direction of the aircraft was reported incorrectly from the beginning, and it was too late to correct after having been discussed by the president.

But one can’t help but wonder
to what extent does such an unprecedented mistake affect the prestige of the U.S. Armed Forces?

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