The aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower and its strike group are scheduled to deploy to U.S. 6th Fleet Friday, while the Ford Carrier Strike Group also operates in the Mediterranean Sea.
The deployment, the Eisenhower’s first in more than two years, has long been planned. But it comes at a time of rising uncertainty in the region following the large-scale attack on Israel Saturday by the Palestinian militant group Hamas and Israel’s retaliatory strikes.
It is not clear how long both carriers will be operating in the region.
“The Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group will depart from Norfolk, Va., in the coming week in line with its standard deployment schedule,” said Navy spokesperson Lt. Caroline Leya in an email to Navy Times.
The carrier strike group comprises more than 5,000 sailors and includes Carrier Air Wing 3, the destroyers Gravely and Mason, and the cruiser Philippine Sea.
“The Eisenhower CSG has been long-scheduled to conduct exercises in the U.S. European Command area of responsibility in support of enhanced vigilance activities and operations with our NATO allies and partners,” Leya said.
U.S. Navy carriers have been deployed to 6th Fleet since shortly after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, so having two in the region allows the U.S. to continue its naval response to Russian aggression while also remaining near the Gaza Strip, where the attack on Israel was launched.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on Sunday ordered the carrier Gerald R. Ford and its strike group to move to the Eastern Mediterranean to provide support to Israel and to discourage a widening of the war to include neighboring countries.
The Ford CSG arrived in the Eastern Mediterranean Tuesday, according to U.S. Central Command. The strike group includes eight squadrons of attack and support aircraft, the destroyers Thomas Hudner, Ramage, Carney and Roosevelt, as well as the cruiser Normandy.
Additional assets sent to bolster U.S. presence in the region in response to the conflict include U.S. Air Force F-15s, F-16s and A-10 fighter aircraft.
“The arrival of these highly capable forces to the region is a strong signal of deterrence should any actor hostile to Israel consider trying to take advantage of this situation,” Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla, commander of U.S. Central Command, said in a news release Tuesday.
The Ford kicked off its first full-length deployment in May to project power for U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa, but it is now unclear when it will return to its homeport in Norfolk.
The Eisenhower concluded its Composite Training Unit Exercise, a certification required for deployment, in July following a maintenance period. It concluded its most recent deployment in July 2021, the second leg of a so-called “double-pump” deployment after returning from its last underway in August 2020.
During its time at sea in 2021, the Eisenhower conducted flight operations against the Islamic State in support of Operation Inherent Resolve and provided close air support for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.