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CNN SATURDAY MORNING NEWS

Carrier Commissioned: USS Ronald Reagan Commissioned Today

Aired July 12, 2003 - 09:36   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Now to Virginia, where there will be a commissioning ceremony for America's newest flattop, the USS "Ronald Reagan."
CNN's Kathleen Koch joins us live from Norfolk Naval Station. Hello, Kathleen.

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi.

It's going to be quite ceremony here today as the Navy officially takes possession of the USS "Ronald Reagan," of course, named after the 40th president. And it joins the Navy's fleet, rounds out the fleet of 12 other aircraft carriers. It will be replacing the USS "Constellation."

Now, the primary speaker here today will be the vice president, Dick Cheney. He's speaking because President Bush, of course, is still in Africa.

Now, this ship took some five years to build, constructed nearby here in Newport News by Newport News Ship Building, and it incorporates all the latest technology, all the latest bells and whistles for aircraft carriers.

For instance, the ship has a high-capacity weapons elevator that now, for the very first time, will enable this aircraft carrier to keep all of its weapons, all of its munitions of every shape and size, fully assembly, ready for use at a moment's notice.

Also, the bow, which you can't see this, though, right below the waterline, it is rounded and bulbous. And this bulbous bow cuts the drag on the bow, makes it more buoyant, therefore more efficient. It also gives a little more lift to those aircraft that are taking off.

Also, the angle of the flight deck has been changed somewhat, so that even very wide-winged aircraft, F-14s and others with wide wingspans, can take off and land for the very first time simultaneously on the flight deck of this aircraft carrier.

Now, also on hand today will be, of course, former first lady Nancy Reagan. She will be giving the official order to bring the ship to life, at which point sailors will be racing to their posts all around the aircraft carrier.

She made a special surprise visit to the USS "Ronald Reagan" yesterday, much to the pleasure of the sailors and the captain. She toured the flight deck, she toured the hangar bay. She had a chance to meet with a lot of the sailors.

And her presence was really very important to them, because, you know, a lot of the sailors here were quite young when President Reagan was in office. But some of the older officers, they say he was actually the first president that they had the honor of voting for.

So it's really a very special moment for them to be serving on this ship, which also, incidentally, is the first aircraft carrier in the U.S. fleet that is named after a living president.

Back to you.

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