Nuclear-powered US carrier on way to Arabian Gulf

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Nuclear-powered US carrier on way to Arabian Gulf

DUBAI – US forces in the Arabian Gulf will get more firepower with the deployment of the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis four months ahead of schedule.

by

Allan Jacob

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Published: Thu 30 Aug 2012, 10:31 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 1:05 PM

The nuclear powered vessel left its home port of Bremerton on Monday and is expected to arrive in the region in late summer or early fall, according to the US Central Command.

The carrier returns to the Arabian Gulf for duties with the US Navy 5th Fleet as the United States plans to keep two carrier strike groups led by the Stennis and Enterprise to maintain security in the region.

The USS John C. Stennis has 5,000 sailors on board. — AFP file

Carrier Strike Group 3 led by the Stennis is commanded by Rear Admiral Craig Faller and the ship’s Commanding Officer is Captain Ron Reis. The carrier has 5,000 sailors on board.

‘‘In response to US Central Command’s requirement for extended naval presence, USS John C. Stennis and USS Mobile Bay will deploy in the late summer/early fall timeframe. There is no change to CENTCOM’s requirement. The only change is how the Navy has chosen to fill that requirement. This is a continuation of a longstanding presence in a vital region ,’’ said Lieutenant Commander T. G. Taylor of CENTCOM in response to questions from Khaleej Times.

Last month, General James N. Mattis, commander of US Central Command, had sought the deployment of the Stennis and its strike group four months earlier than scheduled. It was previously set for deployment by the year-end.

Lieutenant Commander Taylor said the Strait of Hormuz remains a vital chokepoint and one that the US Navy has been patrolling since after World War II. ‘‘Being able to project forces both rotationally and through surge readiness makes us more effective and responsive,’’ he added.

A Super Hornet takes off on board the USS John C. Stennis. — AFP file

Stennis is on a seven-month deployment and replaces the USS Abraham Lincoln and its strike group. The Nimitz class carrier comes will be joined by the USS Mobile Bay, and the strike group also comprises a destroyer squadron, a helicopter sea combat squadron, a fighter squadron, helicopter maritime strike squadron and logistics squadron. Responding to this newspaper’s queries about a military build up in the Arabian Gulf, Lt. Greg Raelson of the US 5th Fleet said: ‘‘We continuously evaluate our force structure to provide the appropriate support to ongoing operations and commitments. The US Navy has maintained a continuous multi-carrier presence in the US Central Command area of responsibility (AOR) since 2003.’’

He said aircraft carriers are used to ensure the US military has the naval and air capabilities to support operational requirements while adequately meeting other security commitments in the region.

Lt. Raelson said the presence of two aircraft carriers changes based on needs and requirements set by the combatant commander and approved by the Joint Staff and the Secretary of Defense.

‘‘For part of each year, two aircraft carriers are present, while at other times, only one CVN is in the region, based on normal rotations of forces and operational requirements.’’

US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta last week reiterated concerns about Iran’s nuclear programme and its rhetoric to block the Strait of Hormuz through which 35 per cent of the world’s oil passes.

Obviously, Iran is one of those threats,’’ Panetta said. He also spoke of the situation in Syria and US efforts to handle the influx of refugees and support to rebels fighting the Assad regime.

allan@khaleejtimes.com



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