ABOARD THE USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT – Five cargo helicopters swarmed like bees over the USS Theodore Roosevelt and the USS Enterprise Monday, as the two aircraft carriers met in the northern Arabian Sea for a complex resupply operation.
The CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters carried dozens of large white boxes with precision-guided missiles and barrels of grease and oil to maintain the planes.
Deckhands on each giant carrier bundled the boxes of missiles and other supplies below deck as fast as the helicopters delivered them.
The Roosevelt has been flying night attacks for almost a week, launching U.S. Navy F-14 Tomcat fighters, EA-6B Prowler surveillance planes and Marine Corps F/A-18C Hornet attack jets to bomb Taliban and Al Qaeda targets in Afghanistan.
Monday's resupply follows one on Sunday, when the USS Detroit, a fast combat support ship, pulled alongside the Roosevelt, and fuel and supplies were ferried on ropes across a 150-foot gap between the two ships.
The Roosevelt and Enterprise, both based in Norfolk, Va., are two of four U.S. Navy battle groups in the Arabian Sea. The other groups are led by the aircraft carriers USS Carl Vinson and the USS Kitty Hawk, which Pentagon officials have said is being used as a helicopter base for special operations troops. A battle group can include as many as a dozen ships.
Some crew of the Roosevelt and Enterprise gathered on the observation decks to watch the daylong exercise and take photographs. Most of the time aircraft carriers sail far out of sight of other ships.
Below decks, air crews prepared the Tomcats and Hornets for another night of airstrikes. As the sunset, most of the crew woke up for another night's work. Some did step aerobics for their morning exercise in the hanger bay as the planes were moved on to elevators to be taken to the flight deck.