Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Pentagon sending aircraft carrier to Mideast early - Update

USS John C. Stennis underway (US Navy Photo)

According to several press reports this morning the Pentagon is sending an aircraft carrier to the Middle East four months early to make sure at least two carriers will constantly be present in the troubled region. In addition to sending the CSG early the deployment will last twice as long as originally planned - eight months.

There are three carriers in the area now, but one was scheduled to leave before its replacement arrived to fill that gap, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has approved sending by late summer the USS John C. Stennis strike group, which also includes the Aegis guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay and some 5,500 sailors.

The shift and extension of the Stennis deployment will allow the U.S. Central Command to keep two aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf region, Gulf of Oman and North Arabian Sea, not only as a hedge against Iran, but also to support combat air operations over Afghanistan.

The USS John C. Stennis just left the area in December. After that last deployment, Iran's army chief Gen. Ataollah Salehi in January warned the U.S. warship not to return to the Gulf, but its replacement, the carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, entered the Gulf without incident later in January.

The world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) and Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 12 arrived in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility (AOR) on April 3.

The Eisenhower CSG and Enterprise CSG joined the Abraham Lincoln CSG in the 5th Fleet AOR to support the combatant commander’s operational requirements, while ensuring security and stability in the AOR.

The Abraham Lincoln CSG 9 consists of of Abraham Lincoln, CVW 2, USS Cape St. George (CG 71), and embarked Destroyer Squadron 9, comprised of USS Momsen (DDG 92) and USS Sterett (DDG 104). The CVW 2 squadrons are VFA-2 the Bounty Hunters; VFA-151 the Vigilantes; VFA-137 the Kestrels; VFA-34 the Blue Blasters; VAW-116 the Sun Kings; VAQ-131 the Lancers; HSC-12 the Golden Falcons; HSM-77 the Saberhawks; and VRC-30 the Providers. They have now left the 5th Fleet AOR and are steaming in the 6th Fleet AOR.

The Enterprise CSG consists of USS Enterprise (CVN 65) and embarks Carrier Air Wing One (CVW) 1; guided-missile cruiser USS Vicksburg (CG 69); and Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 2, comprised of guided-missile destroyers USS Nitze (DDG 94), USS Porter (DDG 78) and USS James E. Williams (DDG 95).

The Eisenhower CSG includes aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), CSG 8, guided-missile cruiser USS Hue City (CG 66), guided-missile destroyers USS Farragut (DDG 99), USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG 81) and USS Jason Dunham (DDG 109), as well as the seven squadrons of Carrier Air Wing 7 and Destroyer Squadron 28.

The carriers Enterprise and Eisenhower will remain in the region until the Stennis relieves the Enterprise about five months from now.