AS MARITIME giants go they don't get more whopping or potent than the USS Theodore Roosevelt.

The 100,000 monster is currently on her way to join the fight against Islamic State (IS).

But she's broken her trip to the Middle East this week by planting herself in the middle of the Solent - where she's becoming a tourist attraction.

The $5bn warship arrived on Sunday afternoon and will be viewable from the shore until she weighs her two 30-tonne anchors on Friday.

Also visible from land are many of her 60 F18 fast jets - an amount in excess of the total owned by many countries.

These are set to be used for daily bombing raids on IS, taking over the role from the USS Charles Vinson, who is currently in place, with a Royal Navy T-45 destroyer acting as her air defence escort.

But the timing of the Theodore Roosevelt parking herself off our south coast has not been lost on military experts.

It comes as the debate still rages as to whether Britain should pledge to spend two per cent of GDP on defence, an issue on which David Cameron appears to be wavering.

Many believe the carrier's appearance is meant as a reminder of just how much America contributes to the NATO alliance.

After four years in refit, followed by 18 months training up her crew, Theodore Roosevelt - dubbed "the Big Stick" by her crew - is ready for whatever the eternally-evolving international political scene demands of her.

Her F18s are scattered on her flight deck above a sun-twinkled Solent, being endlessly tweaked by engineers.

The stern end of the short runway is smattered with scorch marks from where aircraft have touched down, before the arrester wire haul them to a halt in a matter of several seconds.

At the bow steam wafts eerily from the catapults, each capable of chucking F18 super hornets into the air at 120mph 30 seconds apart.

Despite a brisk breeze, the pungent smell of oil and fuel still hangs in the air.

One of the engineers to maintain the combat jets is E5 David Haines, 29, from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

"I grew up in the era of Top Gun and John Wayne movies and wanted to join up from when I was young.

"It's my job to make sure the aircraft get off the deck so they can protect our troops on the ground and our allies.

"But watching them fly off is bitter sweet, we know what they're off to do."

In the control tower high above the flight deck the carrier's captain oversees activity below.

Also there is ship's navigator Cdr Paul Bowditch, from Michigan, who's simply known as "the gator".

"This is my fifth time deploying over there (the Middle East)," he says.

"We have to ensure we're where we need to be when they need us.

"We've trained for this and are ready."

Asked what his priorities were going to be when he got ashore in Portsmouth, Cdr Bowditch confessed to "fish and chips, then HMS Victory".

Travelling with USS Theodore Roosevelt are her carrier strike group, which comprises three other major warships, including the USS Winston S Churchill.

As the destroyer is named after a historic British prime minister, her navigator is by tradition always a Royal Navy officer, with the position currently held by 27-year-old Lt Lynsey Sewell.

The country's two navies operate closely.

When the USS George H W Bush visited Britain in 2011, she took part in war games while sitting off Cornwall, slamming jets into the sky to simulate attacks on Royal Navy special forces hiding in the Welsh mountains.

And as Britain prepares for the first of her two new carriers to arrive at Portsmouth in 2017, our future F35 pilots have been training with the American navy for the past five years.

Among them is Lt Cdr Stephen Collins who, in addition to flying combat missions over Afghanistan, has become the first non-American pilot to pass the Top Gun course, the inspiration for the iconic film starring Tom Cruise.

The Theodore Roosevelt won't return to her home port until November and many of her 5,226-strong crew won't see America until then.

Top brass go to great lengths to keep sailors occupied and make the warren of corridors and small cabins into some sort of home.

There's a Fun Boss (they're obsessed with bingo) and a Fit Boss (there are multiple gyms plus fitness classes held in the hangar), and three movie channels.

And, as you would imagine, there's even a Starbucks.


USS Theodore Roosevelt Factfile

Keel laid down: Oct 31, 1981

Commissioned into the fleet: October 25, 1986

Flight deck length: 1,080ft

Number of stories: 10 levels above the flight deck, seven decks below

Key combat deployments: Operation Desert Storm (Iraq, 1991), Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan, 2001), Operation Iraqi Freedom (Iraq, 2005).

Expected length of service: 50 years

Number of meals served daily: 18,150

Number of light fixtures: 30,000

Miles of cable and wiring: 1,600 miles

Number of alcoholic units per day drunk by sailors: None, the ship is dry while at sea.