Carrier Truman Launches 1st Strikes from the Med

Christopher P. Cavas, Defense News

WASHINGTON Strike aircraft from Carrier Air Wing 7 carried out combat strikes against ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria Friday, flying in from the eastern Mediterranean rather than the Persian Gulf or Arabian Sea.

The carrier Harry S. Truman, home base for the air wing, began anti-ISIS combat operations in late December operating in the Gulf and remained in the region into mid-May, around the time she would and her strike group had been expected to begin to wrap up operations and return to the US.

But the strike group’s deployment was extended on May 2 when US Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson announced the Truman would move to the Mediterranean and remain an extra 30 days to carry out counter-ISIS strikes. The switch to the Med is seen as a strategic demonstration that the US can launch anti-ISIS strikes from the west as well as the southeast, and fulfills a desire to have carriers spend more time with the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean rather than simply pass through en route to Fifth Fleet in the Middle East.

Navy officials told Congress in May that the Truman group’s extra 30 days on station carries a price tag of $91 million – a figure the Navy counts in an overall $848 million operations and maintenance shortfall for fiscal 2016.

Truman and her group left Norfolk Nov. 16 to begin their current deployment. The Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group left Norfolk June 1 to relieve the Truman in the Sixth Fleet and Fifth Fleet areas of operations.

The shift to spend more time in the Mediterranean rather than the Central Command region around the Gulf reflects a not-so-subtle adjustment in US carrier deployment profiles, which have been Gulf-heavy since Operation Desert Shield began in 1990.

The John C. Stennis strike group now cruising the Western Pacific reflects another change – spending more time in and around the South China Sea. The group deployed from San Diego Jan. 20 but, while not directly challenging expanding Chinese territorial claims, has remained in the Pacific – exercising with the South Korean Navy, visiting Singapore and Manila, Philippines, cruising the South China Sea and establishing a new presence level in the region.

The moves reflect one of the primary soft-power uses of carriers – reflecting US interests by their positioning as well as combat power.

“While the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group is in the 6th Fleet area of operations, they continue to project power ashore against terrorists and violent extremists,” Vice Adm. James Foggo, commander of the Sixth Fleet, said in a US European Command press release.

“This exemplifies our Navy’s mobility, flexibility and adaptability, as well as our commitment to execute a full range of military operations in concert with our indispensable European Allies and partners,” Foggo added.

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