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YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE — The USS Kitty Hawk did not leave port Tuesday as expected because of a steam leak, according to ship officials.

The leak, in an auxiliary pipe in one of the ship’s engineering spaces, was expected to be fixed overnight, said Lt. Brook Dewalt, Kitty Hawk spokesman. The ship, nearly 43 years old and the oldest active ship in the Navy, was expected to leave on its regularly scheduled “spring underway period” Wednesday afternoon, Dewalt said.

Dewalt and Cmdr. Mike Brown, a spokesman for the Kitty Hawk battle group, said the leak could not have been predicted or prevented, was relatively insignificant and did not mean the ship had a readiness problem. The carrier could have left port if it had been an operational necessity, they said. Capt. Thomas Parker, the Kitty Hawk commander, called the delay “prudent.”

“You weigh do you want to fix it in port or at sea. … A decision was made to fix it in port,” said Dewalt, adding that the base’s Ship Repair Facility had the supplies and personnel needed to fix the leak.

Dewalt said the leak was unrelated to a thorough inspection the ship recently underwent, but was more related to the carrier’s age.

“It’s like driving a car,” Dewalt said. “Over time, a hose will get a pinhole leak or a tire will blow out.”

The Kitty Hawk’s upcoming schedule is undisclosed. The carrier spent weeks in the Persian Gulf last year and also went to Hong Kong. Most recently, around Thanksgiving, the ship went to Guam.

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Nancy is an Italy-based reporter for Stars and Stripes who writes about military health, legal and social issues. An upstate New York native who served three years in the U.S. Army before graduating from the University of Arizona, she previously worked at The Anchorage Daily News and The Seattle Times. Over her nearly 40-year journalism career she’s won several regional and national awards for her stories and was part of a newsroom-wide team at the Anchorage Daily News that was awarded the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.
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