Trinamul leader and former Calcutta mayor Subrata Mukherjee was on board the USS Kitty Hawk on Friday and as soon as he took the first few steps down the flight deck and looked around him, he was struck with wonder. “Eta toh ekdom ekta bheelez’er moton, maaeeri (this is just like a village, Mother Mary).”
The Kitty Hawk is much more than that and there is little in it to make one feel bucolic. It is the oldest aircraft carrier in the US fleet.
Mukherjee was here on a “distinguished visitors’ programme”. The US consul in Calcutta was here, too. The Andamans fall in the Calcutta consulate’s area of responsibility.
Now, back to Mukherjee. He said it was with great difficulty he found two days off from his busy schedule. He was worried a bit about the arrested landing or “trap” and the catapulted take-off “shot” but appeared to bear it well. He was carrying a spare suit, unsuitable for the tropics, in a “Traders’ Assembly, Gariahat” plastic bag.
Kitty for India
The Kitty Hawk is on its last deployment. It is due to be decommissioned next year, but the Malabar war games are not its last active operation. In February, it will participate in drills off Hawaii, headquarters of the US Pacific Command, before it heads for San Diego. In Hawaii, the crew and its on-board carrier, Air Wing, will move to the USS George Washington, a Nimitz-class nuclear propelled carrier that will replace the Kitty Hawk.
The buzz is that the Kitty Hawk will be up for sale. Will India bid for it' There is a certain logic to this. The Superhornets are a competitive bidder for the IAF’s $10.2-billion multi-role combat aircraft order. The Kitty Hawk flight deck is crammed with them. If India were to take the Kitty Hawk and the Superhornets, it would gel just fine.