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USS Dwight D. Eisenhower carrier strike group deploys without stopping at home first

The aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) conducts a replenishment-at-sea with Military Sealift Command dry cargo and ammunition ship USNS William McLean (T-AKE 12) in the Atlantic Ocean March 29, 2016. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Rafael Martie)

As part of the Navy’s plan to make aircraft carrier deployments less predictable, thousands of crew members on the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and its strike group stayed at sea after they passed their final certification exercise rather than coming home before being deployed as is normally the case.

The Navy said Thursday the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group started its deployment in the Atlantic Ocean immediately after completing an exercise that began in January. The certification exercise usually lasts about a month and amounts to a final exam proving everyone is ready for various real-world combat scenarios.

The Navy did not specify exactly when the strike group’s deployment officially began.

The unusual step is part of a Defense Department strategy known as “dynamic force deployment,” which is meant to keep adversaries on their toes.

For decades, Norfolk-based aircraft carriers would predictably sail into the Mediterranean Sea on their way to the Persian Gulf and back. But as Russia’s Navy has become more active in the Atlantic and elsewhere, military leaders decided to change that up.

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The Norfolk-based aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman was the first to do so in 2018 when it deployed for a few months to the Mediterranean, came home, and then deployed again to the Arctic Circle.

The Navy has not said where the Eisenhower is headed. The Truman is already underway in the Middle East and it’s unclear when it is coming home after it faced months of delays due to an electric issue.

“The Sailors of IKE Strike Group are trained and ready to execute the full spectrum of maritime operations in any theater,” Rear Adm. Paul Schlise, commander of the Eisenhower carrier strike group, said in a statement.

Other ships in the strike group include the Norfolk-based guided-missile cruisers USS San Jacinto and USS Vella Gulf, and the guided-missile destroyers USS Stout, USS James E. Williams and USS Truxton.

The strike group has about 6,000 people assigned to it, including its air wing.

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© 2020 The Virginian-Pilot