The U.S. 6th Fleet command-and-control ship Mount Whitney is heading to the Eastern Mediterranean Sea to support U.S. operations there, the Navy announced Wednesday, as tensions escalate in the region amid war between Israel and Palestinian militant group Hamas.
The Italy-based flagship left Wednesday and will join other U.S. assets — including two aircraft carrier strike groups and an amphibious assault ship — already dispatched to the Eastern Mediterranean in support of Israel and to halt a broader conflict from erupting.
Sixth Fleet did not specify what Mount Whitney would be doing once it arrived on station. The Pentagon did not respond to a Navy Times request for comment by deadline Wednesday.
But the 52-year-old Mount Whitney serves as a command ship sporting sophisticated command, control, communications and intelligence capabilities, according to the Navy.
It allows an embarked commander to direct air, ground and maritime units from one location and can move and process large amounts of data.
Mount Whitney was the tactical command hub directing operations for NATO’s Operation Unified Protector and the U.S. military’s Operation Odyssey Dawn against the Libyan regime in 2011.
Currently off the coast of Israel and Gaza is the Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group, which arrived in the eastern Mediterranean last week. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered the carrier to head to the region following the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas, and Israel’s retaliatory strikes.
It’s unclear how long the carrier will remain off the coast of Israel before returning to its homeport in Norfolk, Virginia. The Pentagon announced Tuesday that Austin approved an extension of the Ford’s deployment — slated to conclude shortly — so it could remain in the region longer.
“My sense is that it’s going to keep being reevaluated, so I would say it’s open-ended right now,” Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh told Military Times on Tuesday.
Additionally, the aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower and its carrier strike group got underway on Saturday for a regularly scheduled deployment, and are poised to join the Ford shortly in waters off Israel and the Palestinian Gaza Strip.
Likewise, the amphibious assault ship Bataan, along with its embarked 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, is on its way to Israel. However, Singh said Tuesday the Marines haven’t received tasking orders yet.
“They are there so that [if] the [defense] secretary and the president make a decision that they are needed, they are in the region, but I’m not going to get into specific operational details at this time,” Singh told reporters Tuesday.