BREMERTON, WA — Seeking a way of keeping Pyongyang in check amidst a tightened budgetary environment, the Navy today began towing a 52-year-old decommissioned aircraft carrier from what some call a "ship's graveyard" at Naval Base Bremerton, to the politically unstable Korean Peninsula.
The deployment of USS Constellation (CV-64), which was put out of service more than a decade ago and will rely on a 230-foot Navy tugboat to make its 5,000 mile journey, is intended to "send a strong message" to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un that America and its allies won’t tolerate that country’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, according to the commander of U.S. Third Fleet, Vice Adm. Kenneth Floyd.
"It’s been proven time and again that if you want an aggressive nation to stop rattling its saber, all you have to do is park an aircraft carrier in that nation’s back yard," Floyd said during this morning’s low-key recommissioning ceremony at the base's inactive ship maintenance facility.
"We have full faith that once Connie makes her way to the Sea of Japan in about six or seven weeks — provided her badly rusted keel won’t be breached in rough seas — then Kim Jong-un will stop pursuing his nuclear ambitions and calmly go back to shooting free throws with Dennis Rodman, or maybe just shooting more members of his own immediate family," Floyd added.
Though the Navy says it’s confident in Constellation’s ability to persuade North Korea to tone down its nuclear rhetoric, many military scholars believe that the Kitty Hawk-Class carrier, which hasn’t received any form of maintenance or preservation since being officially stricken from the Naval Vessel Register in 2003, faces some big challenges coming out of retirement.
"For the Navy to think they can haul some antique, cold war-era vessel without any crew or aircraft aboard halfway around the world in an attempt to scare an unstable dictator into giving up his nuclear ambitions is beyond absurd, because that ship’s a fossil, " said Milton Osborne, a retired two-star admiral who now works for the military consulting firm The Spectrum Group.
Seeming to anticipate and preempt such criticism, Floyd mentioned in his speech that the Navy is in the process of procuring both a crew and an unspecified number of aircraft for Constellation before the vessel reaches the Sea of Japan.
"We’re currently in negotiations to borrow back a handful of F-16s we’ve given to the Egyptians, and we’re hoping to tap the Navy Reserve for pilots to fly those aircraft, as well as for some Sailors to run the ship," he said.
If the funding isn’t available for reservists to man the Constellation, Floyd added, the Navy would look at other "creative" manning options.
Among those options: Asking retired veterans to return to active duty without pay, hiring 5,000 day laborers from the nation’s various Home Depot hardware stores to work in shifts, and — as a "last resort" — seeking donations via a Kickstarter campaign.
Floyd’s upbeat remarks regarding Constellation’s deployment weren’t enough to sway such self-described "military realists" as Osborne, however.
"This makes absolutely no sense, and it’s probably the most horrible idea the Navy has had since 'Perform to Serve,'" he said.
"Just look at those birds," Osborne added, while pointing to a murder of screeching crows that flew from Constellation’s shattered bridge windows, as the ship’s whistle blew loudly during the ceremony’s conclusion. "If that’s not a bad omen, then I don’t know what the hell is."