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5 NATO aircraft carriers patrolling together in show of force around Europe

The aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) departs Cartagena, Spain. (Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Billy Ho/U.S. Navy)
November 18, 2022

NATO is making a show of force this month with five aircraft carriers operating in the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, one month after the alliance and Russia held rival nuclear exercises amid the latter’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

Two U.S. carriers are involved: the USS George H.W. Bush and the USS Gerald R. Ford, according to a U.S. Navy press release. The other three carriers are the U.K.’s HMS Queen Elizabeth and the flagships of the French and Italian navies: the Charles De Gaulle and Cavour.

The exercise allows NATO forces to practice working together. It’s also another beat in a “deliberate rhythm of military activity” the alliance is maintaining as part of its new “Deter and Defend” strategy, which was launched in the wake of the Ukraine invasion.

“Deter and Defend” emerged from a new strategic plan developed after the invasion, which named Russia as the alliance’s most significant and direct threat in the Euro-Atlantic area, according to NATO.

The exercise comes a month after NATO and Russia each held long-planned nuclear exercises even as escalating nuclear rhetoric reached highs not seen since the Cold War.

Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh said the “operations present an opportunity for allied nations to coordinate critical combat power throughout the Euro-Atlantic area while showcasing NATO cohesion and interoperability,” according to USNI News. 

It isn’t clear where the carriers will be and when. But they will patrol the seas accompanied by formations of other military ships called Carrier Strike Groups, according to the release.

The exercise will be “coordinated with” Standing NATO Maritime Groups 1 and 2, which are comprised of vessels from NATO countries, according to the press release.

“NATO routinely demonstrates its cohesion, coordinating with multiple international maritime assets at once,” said Vice Admiral Keith Blount, commander of NATO Allied Maritime Command. “This opportunity demonstrates our ironclad commitment to the stability and security of the Euro-Atlantic Area and the strength of our collective capability.”