WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. military moved warships further away from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear complex after detecting low-levels of radioactivity, U.S. officials said on Monday, in a sign of the risks involved in the massive U.S. relief mission.
The U.S. military operation to assist close ally Japan after last week’s earthquake and tsunami is still moving ahead, however, with more ships arriving in the coming days.
Here are the latest details from the Pentagon on the mobilization of American forces that will see the U.S. military ferry humanitarian aid, evacuate survivors and assist Japanese troops grappling with Japan’s worst crisis since World War Two. All times are local to Japan.
* The USS Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group, which includes the cruiser USS Chancellorsville, the destroyer USS Preble and the combat support ship USNS Bridge, is conducting operations off the east coast of Honshu and is now about 180 nautical miles away from the Fukushima nuclear complex.
* The guided-missile destroyers USS Fitzgerald, USS John S. McCain, USS McCampbell and USS Curtis Wilbur are in the same area.
* USS Mustin (DDG 89) is at sea south of the disaster site.
* The aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan will in the coming days serve as a refueling platform for helicopters from the Japan Self Defense Force, Japan Coast Guard and civilian authorities involved in rescue and recovery efforts. The USS Ronald Reagan has a 3,200-person Navy crew as well as 2,480 aviators and air wing personnel and approximately 85 aircraft.
* Air operations on Monday included 10 helicopters from Naval Air Facility Atsugi and USS Ronald Reagan identifying several groups of people in need of assistance in the vicinity of Minato, and delivering water, blankets and food. Additional helicopters conducted surveys of the at-sea debris field, and conducted search and rescue missions along the coastline.
* U.S. Navy P-3 “Orion” aircraft flew two missions to survey and assess the debris field at sea.
* USS Tortuga, an amphibious dock landing ship, loaded two heavy-lift MH-53 helicopters on Saturday in South Korea. It will arrive on the Japanese island of Hokkaido on Tuesday where it will pick up 300 Japan Ground Self Defense Force personnel and 90 vehicles bring them to Aomori, Japan.
* USS Essex, a large amphibious assault ship, had just arrived in Malaysia when the tsunami hit. It got underway on Saturday en route to the east coast of Honshu and is expected to arrive around March 16.
* USS Blue Ridge, the U.S. Seventh Fleet command ship which the Navy describes as “the most capable command ship ever built,” had just arrived in Singapore when the tsunami hit. It immediately changed its focus to loading humanitarian assistance/disaster relief equipment. It departed Singapore on Saturday en route to the east coast of Honshu and is expected to arrive as soon as March 16.
* USS Harpers Ferry, a dock landing ship based in Sasebo, Japan, and the USS Germantown, an amphibious dock landing ship home-ported in San Diego, California, have been redirected to Japan from locations in Southeast Asia. Both were described as at least a couple days away.
Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Jackie Frank