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US Military Base on Diego Garcia, Indian Ocean

September 1st, 2006 / / Links: Google Earth, Google Maps, Yahoo! Maps, Virtual Earth / Nearest places

During the Cold War era, the United States was keen on establishing a military base in the Indian Ocean. Because of Diego Garcia's proximity to India, a potential ally of the Soviet Union, the United States saw the island as a strategically important one. U.S. military activities in Diego Garcia have caused friction between India and U.S. in the past.[11] During the Cold War era, various political parties in India repeatedly demanded the U.S. to dismantle the military base[12]. However, after the end of the Cold War, relations between India and U.S. have improved dramatically. Diego Garcia was the site of several naval exercises between the US and Indian Navy held between 2001 and 2004.

Diego Garcia has several current missions. U.S. Air Force bombers and AWACS surveillance planes operate from the 12,000 foot (3,650 m) runway, and USAF Space Command has built a satellite tracking station and communications facility. It is also likely that the National Security Agency has a listening post on the island.

The atoll also shelters the 14 ships of Marine Prepositioning Squadron Two. These ships carry the equipment and supplies to support a major armed force with light tanks, armored personnel carriers, munitions, fuel, spare parts and even a mobile field hospital. This equipment showed its necessity during the Persian Gulf War, when the Squadron quickly delivered its equipment to Saudi Arabia. There, soldiers flown on air transports from U.S. and European bases quickly unloaded and deployed the pre-positioned materiel.

For example, the ships stationed at Diego Garcia in 2001 included: Five maritime pre-positioning ships - MV Baugh, MV Hauge, MV Bonnyman, MV Phillips and MV Anderson. Each ship carried enough Marine Corps cargo to support a Marine Air/Ground Task Force for 30 days. Each ship can be loaded both by crane and RO/RO. They also carry powered lighters and can accommodate helicopters to facilitate cargo unloading at sea and in unimproved ports.

Four combat pre-positioning force ships -MV Jeb Stuart, MV American Cormorant, SS Green Valley and SS Green Harbour. These ships provided quick-response delivery of US Army equipment for ground troops. Jeb Stuart, Green Valley and Green Harbour are LASH ships carrying Army ammunition in non-powered lighters (or barges) that can be ferried to shore. They can also carry cargo containers. American Cormorant is a unique FLO/FLO ship. This converted oil tanker can raise or lower its main deck to allow the barges and tugs carried on it to float on or off. The equipment it carries is used to prepare an unimproved port for other ships to offload materiel.

Five logistics pre-positioning ships - MV Buffalo Soldier, SS Potomac, MV Green Ridge, USNS Henry J. Kaiser, and MV Fisher. These ships service the rapid delivery needs of the US Air Force, US Navy and Defense Logistics Agency. Buffalo Soldier and Fisher are container ships carrying Air Force ammunition, missiles and spare parts. Green Ridge carries a 500-bed Navy hospital used to support Fleet and Marine Forces engaged in combat operations ashore. The hospital materials - comprised of 75 wheeled vehicles, 80 pieces of general cargo and 450 containers of tents and medical supplies - must be rotated back to facilities in the United States to be refurbished every five years. Henry J. Kaiser is one of three tankers assigned to MSC in support of the Defense Logistics Agency's requirement to pre-position fuel afloat. Kaiser was an underway replenishment oiler supporting the U.S. Navy's 7th Fleet until 1995. Now it is used as a tanker, carrying aircraft and marine fuel. Two of its five refueling rigs remain in operation, making it possible for the ship to act as underway replenishment oiler in emergencies. SS Potomac is an offshore petroleum discharge system (OPDS) tanker. It sits offshore as a "floating gas station" using its flexible pipelines to lay on the ocean floor and deliver more than 170,000 barrels of aircraft fuel to bases on land.

Smaller prepositioned squadrons exist at Guam and in the Arabian Gulf. But because of its remote location and lack of a local population to conceal saboteurs, Diego Garcia seems the ideal place to keep so many valuable and fairly defenseless ships in close quarter. The U.S. guards this strategic jewel very closely. Aside from a brief tour allowed in 1976 while President Carter was discussing "demilitarizing" the region, no journalist has set foot on the island. A Newsweek writer's dateline from the 1976 trip was cryptically phrased "Somewhere East of Suez."

Construction and maintenance of the base's communications equipment, fuel facilities and military hardware is done strictly by military contractors, and inventories of that weaponry is classified. With no family members or other civilians allowed, Diego Garcia may be the loneliest military outpost in the world. In 2001, the US Department of Defense said that there were more buildings on Diego Garcia (654) than military personnel.[13]

Diego Garcia served as a main platform for the B-52 bombers that were used in Afghanistan during 2001-02. A fleet of B-52s, B-1s and B-2s from Diego Garcia also led the shock and awe attacks on Baghdad on March 22, 2003, dropping 4,200 lb. bunker busters on the city.[14] Diego Garcia is also a regular deployment site for US Navy P-3C Orion patrol and anti-submarine aircraft.

[Source: Wikipedia]

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