Tuesday, January 16, 2007

In show of strength, U.S. sending second carrier to Middle East

USS Stennis

"A second U.S. aircraft carrier will arrive in the Middle East in about a month, a U.S. Navy official said Tuesday, the first time since the U.S.-led Iraq invasion in 2003 that the United States will have two carrier battle groups in the region.

The increase in U.S. forces is a show of strength by Washington in the face of Iran's growing regional assertiveness and a perception among U.S. adversaries that the United States is vulnerable in Iraq, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Monday.

The USS John C. Stennis is scheduled to sail Tuesday from its homeport of Bremerton, Washington. The Nimitz-class carrier, with approximately 3,200 sailors, will stop off in San Diego to pick an air wing of more than 80 planes, including F/A-18 Hornet and Superhornet fighter-bomber

After a monthlong voyage across the Pacific and Indian oceans, the Stennis will join the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, which is already tasked to the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet, based in the Gulf kingdom of Bahrain, said Cmdr. Kevin Aandahl of the Fifth Fleet.

Once in Middle East waters, the second aircraft carrier will significantly boost U.S. air power in the region and serve as a reminder of U.S. firepower to Iran. Its arrival will give the Pentagon two U.S. carriers in the region for the first time since 2003, Aandahl said.

This demonstrates our resolve to do what we can to bring security and
stability to the region," Aandahl said. "That's obviously to dissuade others from acting counter to our national interest."

Washington will maintain two carriers in the Middle East "as long as the
situation demands it," Aandahl said. A typical carrier deployment lasts six months."

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