Wednesday, April 7, 1999 Published at 11:23 GMT 12:23 UK
A curious lack of interest, out at sea
The Nicholson: A bit of America afloat
The BBC's chief news correspondent Kate Adie reports from the USS Nicholson.
Out at sea, out of sight, the ships of the American Sixth Fleet have kept up a barrage of cruise missiles every night since the start of the Nato attack.
The crew sit glued to screens which twitch and blink, glowing orange and green. Lists of ships are scrawled on clear plastic boards: American, British, French, Belgian, Italian and German - all part of the massive multi-national effort.
Then there's a board on which are scrawled several Russian names - possible visitors sliding through the Dardanelles, and certainly not part of the Nato effort.
A map of the Balkans dominates the Centre, with a series of dots along the coast of Montenegro. These represent the "midpoints" in the flight of the missiles. The ship gets the order to fire after a lengthy period in which the missiles have been "spinning", that's being programmed individually for their targets.
Then the ship is "tasked" and after what is an indeterminate amount of time for the precise moment of launch - merely awaiting an order from the Nato commanders ashore - the missile is fired and traced by the ship to the midpoint and no further.
"I get it to the front door of the house," says the Nicholson's captain Alex Urrutia. "Then it finds its own way to the right room."
It's a bit of America afloat.
Kosovo seems a long way away. But up on deck two hours before dawn, we stood only yards from the missile cells. The launch is frighteningly sudden: a blast of heat, light and smoke as the Tomahawk bursts from its cell.
Then a roar as the rocket ignites just feet above us, bits of cell casing showering down on us. It arcs sharply to port and starts eastward. It looks like a huge firework. In reality it's a thousand pound warhead and it tears away into a starlit sky with deadly intent.