For the first time since World War II, there will be zero US Navy aircraft carriers deployed on missions anywhere in the world. The seas will be free of a US carrier for an entire week. At the end of December, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and its strike group in the Middle East returned to their homeport in Norfolk, Virginia after a seven-month deployment. The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, or “the Ike,” launched hundreds of airstrikes against ISIS from the Mediterranean Sea and the Persian Gulf and its return home will leave the region without a US carrier.
The Ike’s replacement carrier, the USS George H.W. Bush, will not be able to replace the Ike immediately because its building was delayed for more than six months in the ship yard. Without the USS George H. W. Bush available to immediately replace the Ike, there is no US carrier located anywhere in the Middle East, despite growing threats in the region. While there is no US carrier, officials say that there is a large deck US Navy amphibious assault ship equiped with helicopters, jets, and thousands of Marines ready to respond should there be a crisis.
The USS Nitze and the USS Mason, both in the Ike’s strike group, were the target of Iranian-backed Houthi forces while they were stationed in the Red Sea when they were attacked by cruise missiles in the fall. The USS Mason was able to intercept the missiles and the USS Nitze deployed a retaliatory strike which took out the group’s radar installations in Yemen.
Navy officials told Fox News that while there are no US carriers at sea, the Navy had other jets available to fill the gap and can also “surge” a carrier if necessary. Captain Terry Shannon, a US Naval Forces Central Command spokesman, told Fox News in a statement that they are “not going to discuss the timing of operational movements of carrier strike groups into and out of the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.”