Newest Carrier Makes Big Waves

Editor's Note: This is part one of a five-part series. Tomorrow's story will focus on the fighter jets aboard the carrier.

The aircraft carrier is the powerhouse of a navy's fleet. Its mission is to serve as the military's calling card anywhere in the world.

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Its presence also warns other nations not to pick a fight.

The Navy has a dozen carriers, the newest of which is the USS Harry S. Truman. Fox News recently caught up with the ship some 100 miles off the coast of Virginia, where the men and women aboard are training for the inevitable: a deployment to fight the war on terror.

Commanding officer Capt. Michael Groothousen says these dress rehearsals will get them ready for the real thing.

"The ultimate test at the end of the work-up cycle is when we go into combat," Groothousen said. "And in today's world, they understand that probably is a given."

The Truman is known for its air wing, which includes about 75 fighters, bombers, surveillance aircraft and helicopters. The Truman sails the sea to land and launch these aircraft.

Some of the personnel, those dressed in the familiar yellow, serve as flight deck shooters. And whether they're at war or just practicing, they make sure planes catapult off on time.

"You're launching aircraft with weapons and bombs on board and they come back without them," said Lt. Chris "Bull" Servello.

The fighter jets are the Truman's offensive weapons, ready to take off and launch strikes hundreds of miles away. But if the battle comes to it, it has to be ready to defend itself.

It has the weapons to do that, as well. And these are serious weapons.

There's the sea sparrow, a radar-guided missile that can take out enemy aircraft and other threats. Then there are the close-ins, such as the six-barrel, 20-millimeter gattling gun.

"What that gun does will tear you up in a heartbeat," said Bryant Kincaid of the Truman's combat direction center.

The ship has a lot of muscle, but it also has brains. The combat center controls weapons and keeps a close eye on everything in the area.

As big as the Truman is, it's part of an even larger battle group with six to eight other ships, including a guided missile cruiser, destroyer, frigate, supply ship and submarine. But the carrier is the centerpiece — the biggest, with the baddest air power.

While it hasn't gotten deployment orders yet, its crew is training hard round the clock, so they'll be ready when the president calls. 

Fox News' Liza Porteus contributed to this report.