'Dare and Do' on friendly mission
By Esther Williams
The USS Hopper made its presence felt when it came into port at Colombo last week. Unlike the regular container/cargo vessels that are usually anchored at the Unity Container Terminal, this impressive US Navy missile destroyer added a military touch to the scene at the Port.

The 10-hour stopover was a fuel halt during which the US Embassy arranged for a conducted tour of the ship, considered one of the most capable warships ever built. The USS Hopper which belongs to Pacific Fleet cruisers based at Pearl Harbour, Hawaii is named after Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, a pioneer in computer technology during World War II and one of the earliest female admirals in the US Navy. It is now under the command of Kenneth W. Auten of the United States Navy
"The visit of the USS Hopper is emblematic of the friendship between the people of the United States and the people of Sri Lanka. I am especially pleased that we are again seeing an American ship visit Colombo after such a long time," said Ashley Wills, American Ambassador.

The ship's mission is to operate offensively in a high density, multi-threat environment as an integral member of a battle group, surface action group, amphibious task group (land and water) or underway replenishment group. "Dare and Do," is their motto. Watching the reputed US Marines in their working environment was a remarkable experience. The Central Control station is responsible for propelling the ship through the water. It is equipped with three electrical plants to generate their own power.

Seawater is pushed through different filters to get up to 15000 gallons of fresh water a day. Crew in this section are trained in damage control - fire, leaks and floods.
The Combat Information Centre is where the Operation Specialists sit. It can house almost 30-40 members during combat. Their sophisticated radars, sensors and electronic systems can detect any hostile obstacle around them. communications system.

The USS Hopper has the most powerful systems and equipment on board suitable for any type of warfare - air, surface or undersea. It is even equipped to land helicopters.
Half the officers and 30% of the crew of more than 300 are women. The last time this ship was in battle was in 1998 during Operation Desert Fox. The ship can go at a speed of 39 knots, which is roughly about 65 km per hour and can stay at sea for two weeks or more if food does not run out.

It is not all work for the crew of this battle ship, though. Their wardroom for dining and recreation has a TV and radio, a place where they get to socialise.

"It is a job I have to do," said Tamara Conaut, the strike officer in charge of weapons, when asked if she liked what she was doing. The ship is also equipped to neutralize targets beyond hostile shorelines, to avoid enemy mines and for electronic warfare. The crew is therefore assured of safety from chemical, biological and radiological hazards through the use of protection zones within the ship.

With its sophisticated and complicated equipment, the inside looked like a Star Wars spaceship. Even at the Colombo Port, vigilant crew wearing masks and bulletproof vests manned their guns on the deck.

"Our task is yet unknown," says officer Courtenay Rogers. They now make their way through the Indian Ocean to join the US Central Command's Fleet as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, a code name used for the US war against terrorism.

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