YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Rear Adm. James D. Kelly will be the next commander of the USS Kitty Hawk strike group, Navy officials said Tuesday.

Kelly, currently director of Warfare Programs and Readiness at the U.S. Atlantic Fleet, fills a position open since February, when the previous commander was relieved after allegations of an improper relationship with a junior officer.

During its wartime deployment to the Persian Gulf, the strike group was commanded by Rear Adm. Matthew Moffit, who was on loan from the USS John C. Stennis strike group.

Since its return to Yokosuka, the Kitty Hawk group has been commanded by Capt. Dick Corpus, who also is the Kitty Hawk strike group’s chief of staff.

No firm date has been set for Kelly’s arrival but he’s scheduled to leave his current command in mid-July, said Carrier Group 5 spokesman Cmdr. Mike Brown.

Kelly is familiar with both the Kitty Hawk and Japan; he served in the VA-145 squadron aboard the Kitty Hawk in the mid-1980s and later was assigned to the USS Independence when it was stationed at Yokosuka Naval Base.

According to his official Navy biography, Kelly was a member of the first attack squadron to fly sorties over the no-fly zone in Southern Iraq in August 1992.

In 1995, he was given command of the USS Sacramento. In 1999, he became the 29th commanding officer of the USS Constellation, the aircraft carrier most similar to the Kitty Hawk. The Constellation is to be decommissioned later this summer.

Born in Longview, Wash., Kelly grew up in Scotia, N.Y. He graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1973 and was designated a naval flight officer in 1974.

Kelly’s decorations include the Defense Superior Service Award, Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal and the individual Air Medal with Combat “V.”

He has logged more than 4,000 flight hours, primarily in the A-6, including 60 combat missions flown during Operation Desert Storm and Operation Southern Watch.

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