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One hundred thousand tonnes of old-fashioned hard power have just dropped anchor in Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour, creating a steel-grey island in the wider blue. It is a US Navy supercarrier, one of the world’s most potent military machines; its cargo is a mobile air force of over 70 planes and helicopters, and some 5,500 crew. Alone, it outguns most national air forces.

Meet the USS George Washington, unique among the American fleet of 11 aircraft carriers, and the lead ship of the US Navy’s Carrier Strike Group 5. Unlike its sister ships, which…

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