Preparations for a retaliatory bombing strike against a terrorist center in Lebanon extended to sending extra pilots and bombardiers from Oceana, Va., to the aircraft carrier USS Eisenhower in the Mediterranean, Pentagon officials said yesterday.
These air crews from Squadron VA-75 in Oceana were needed to man additional A6 bombers the Eisenhower took from the carrier USS America in late October to beef up the Eisenhower's capability to launch what would have been the first retaliatory strike against terrorists, officials said.The America was on her way home when the bombers were transferred.
Pentagon spokesman Michael I. Burch at first denied that Navy preparations for the strike extended "to flying extra A6E bombers" to the Eisenhower. "No additional air assets were moved to the Eisenhower for any reason," he said at his Pentagon briefing on Nov. 27.
His office later that day issued a correction: "Secretary Burch was in error when he said there was no change in the complement of the Eisenhower's air wing." The Pentagon confirmed that extra A6s went to the Eisenhower without stating the number.
Asked to check whether A6Es went from Squadron VA-75 in Oceana, Burch's office replied that "no VA-75 aircraft are currently in the Mediterranean" without mentioning that crews from that squadron had gone to the Eisenhower as part of the preparations.