On Monday, the U.S. Navy announced it sent a nuclear-powered guided-missile submarine and two more surface warships through the Strait of Hormuz, a key shipping channel bordering Iran.
The U.S. Navy said the nuclear-power Ohio-class guided-missile submarine USS Georgia (SSGN 729) along with the guided-missile cruisers USS Port Royal (CG 73) and USS Philippine Sea (CG 58) transited the Strait of Hormuz on Dec. 21. The three U.S. warfighting vessels’ proximity to Iran could be one of the U.S.’s added precautions ahead of the Jan. 3 anniversary of the U.S. strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad, Iraq.
According to Military.com, the Navy doesn’t typically disclose the whereabouts of its deployed submarines.
In its Monday statement, the Navy said, “Georgia’s presence demonstrates the United States’ commitment to regional partners and maritime security with a full spectrum of capabilities to remain ready to defend against any threat at any time.”
In addition to U.S. concerns about Iranian revenge efforts on the one-year mark of Soleimani’s killing, Iran has also blamed the U.S. and Israel for the killing its top nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, in a roadside ambush in Iran last month.
U.S. officials recently raised warnings that Iran could mount revenge attacks through its affiliated Iraqi Shia militias and that those Iraqi militias already had the weapons in place to carry out such attacks.
On Sunday, a series of rocket attacks in Baghdad struck near a U.S. Embassy, and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pointed blame on Iran-backed Iraqi militia groups. One Iran-linked Iraqi militia, the Kata’ib Hezbollah, reportedly disavowed the attack while Iraqi security forces only attributed the attack to an unidentified outlaw group.
It remains to be seen if Iran-backed groups or Iran itself will carry out additional attacks to avenge either Soleimani or Fakhrizadeh.
The presence of the additional U.S. submarine and surface warships could bolster the U.S. ability to respond to or even intercept potential Iranian attacks.
In its press release, the Navy said its Ohio-class submarines are among the most versatile vessels in the fleet and are capable of carrying a loadout of 154 Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles and a complement of 66 Special Operations Forces in addition to its crew.
USS Philippine Sea and USS Port Royal, which are both Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruisers, capable of carrying their own Tomahawks and an assortment of other missiles.