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US carrier-launched airstrike targets ISIS in Iraq for first time in 2 years

Two U.S. Navy F/A-18F Super Hornets assigned to Carrier Air Wing 17, deployed aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68), fly over the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility Sept. 23, 2020. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Duncan C. Bevan)
September 29, 2020

A pair of U.S. Navy F/A-18F Super Hornets embarked on the USS Nimitz (CVN-68) carried out the first carrier-launched airstrike in more than two years against the Islamic State terror group.

The Wednesday mission was the first carrier-launched airstrike in over two years. Cmdr. Rebecca Rebarich, a spokeswoman for the Bahrain-based U.S. 5th Fleet, confirmed the airstrike as a carrier-launched operation in an emailed statement to American Military News. Rebarich said, “The last such strike was by USS Theodore Roosevelt in March 2018.”

While there have been no carrier-launched airstrikes in around 30 months, aircraft embarked aboard amphibious landing ships in the region have conducted some strikes during that 30-month period.

An airstrike coordinated by U.S. Coalition Forces and launched that same day targeted the ISIS locations in Wadi Al-Shai, a rural area in the Kirkuk province, destroying a cave structure and three more shelters being used as hideouts by the ISIS terror group in the Kirkuk province of northern Iraq on Wednesday.

Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman Col. Wayne Marotto described the strike mission in a Thursday tweet, saying, “W/ @modmiliq approval @Coalition conducted a strike on Daesh hideouts in Wadi Al-Shai, Iraq Sep 23, destroying one cave and three shelters. Daesh operatives will continue to try and take advantage of safe havens; but there is no safe place for terrorists to hide. #defeatdaesh.”

Rebarich did not confirm if the carrier-launched strike was the same as the one described by Marotto on Thursday, however.

USS Nimitz has been deployed in the 5th Fleet area of operations around the Middle East region since late July. Nimitz, which is the oldest U.S. aircraft carrier currently operating, is accompanied by the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Princeton, and Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Sterett and USS Ralph Johnson.

The carrier strike group is the first to operate in the Persian Gulf since the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) left the region near the end of 2019.

A video from USS Nimitz on Sept. 22 — one day before the strike — shows fighters from Carrier Air Wing 17 launching from the deck of Nimitz in operations supporting Operation Inherent Resolve.

The Nimitz carrier strike group’s patrol through the Persian Gulf is reportedly meant to deter aggression and ensure the free flow of commerce. The carrier group’s presence in the Persian Gulf comes amid heightened tensions with Iran, including new U.S. sanctions against Iran and reported Iranian threats of retaliatory attacks against U.S. officials for the January that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

The Wednesday carrier-launched airstrike came on the same day Iran released images on purporting to show one of its drones stalking the Nimitz and other ships in the carrier strike group in the strategically critical Strait of Hormuz.