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Marine Harriers Strike ISIS Targets; French Carrier Leaves for Middle East

An AV-8B Harrier assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 162 (Reinforced), 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (26th MEU), launches from the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD-3) on Nov. 19, 2015. US Navy Photo

An AV-8B Harrier assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 162 (Reinforced), 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (26th MEU), launches from the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD-3) on Nov. 19, 2015. US Navy Photo

Naval forces resumed air strikes against the Islamic State this week after a one-month pause in participation in Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR), the Navy announced today.

Marine Corps AV-8B Harriers launched from the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD-3) and flew strike missions over Iraq today, marking the first time U.S. naval aircraft have attacked the Islamic State since Oct. 17.

The Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group, a three-ship unit that hosts the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, arrived in U.S. 5th Fleet on Nov. 1. The previous amphibious group in the region, the Essex ARG and 15th MEU, left the Middle East in mid-October and is now in the South China Sea en route back to its San Diego homeport.

Just days before the Kearsarge ARG left the Middle East, the Navy’s only aircraft carrier in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations, USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71), also chopped out of the region, leaving no naval air power to go after Islamic State targets this fall. USS Harry S Truman (CVN-75) departed its homeport in Norfolk on Monday and will head to the Middle East to begin strikes in OIR.

During the gap in Navy and Marine Corps air strike presence in the Middle East, U.S. Air Force and coalition forces conducted strike missions throughout the region.

“The Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group with the embarked 26th MEU, along with our coalition partners, are here to degrade and destroy ISIL’s current operations under OIR,” Kearsarge ARG commander Capt. Augustus Bennett said, referring to the Islamic State by an alternate name, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
“The combined ARG-MEU team is an expeditionary Navy/Marine Corps force that stands ready and has been trained for these types of operations. We’re here to assure our allies, deter any adversaries and provide a persistent U.S. presence here in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.”

Col. Brian Koch, the commanding officer of the Harrier squadron, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM)162 (Reinforced), said his Marines were prepared to operate around the clock “to work with our coalition partners to drive ISIL out of Iraq and Syria.”

The French Connection

An undated photo of Charles de Gaulle (R91)

An undated photo of Charles de Gaulle (R91)

Meanwhile, the French carrier Charles de Gaulle (R91) left its Mediterranean port of Toulon on Thursday to add to the country’s ongoing operations against ISIS — Opération Chammal. The addition of the combined 20 Dassault Rafale M aircraft and Dassault Super Etendard Modernisé (SEM) add to the French fighters operating from ground bases in the United Arab Emirates and Jordan.

Those ground based fighters struck several ISIS controlled targets in Syria on Sunday near the town of Raqqa following the ISIS-claimed terror attacks that killed 129 in Paris on Friday.

While the de Gaulle’s deployment had been previously planned, committing the carrier to attacking ISIS falls in line with French president François Hollande’s call to go to war with ISIS.

“The carrier’s deployment “is going to triple our military power [as part of the operation against the Islamic State],” Hollande said earlier this week.
“I am not talking about deterring the Islamic State but about eliminating it totally.”

Russian president Vladimir Putin has ordered the Russian surface action group in the Eastern Mediterranean to provide support for the de Gaulle task group.

“A French aircraft carrier task force is to approach your area soon. You are to establish direct contact with the French counterparts and cooperate with them as with allies,” Putin said on Tuesday, according to the TASS news service.
“It is essential to draw up a plan for joint operations on the sea and in the air.”

The SAG, centered around the Black Sea-based guided missile cruiser Moscow (or Moskva), has established an air defense bubble around the Russian forward base in Syria after entering the region under the guise of a training exercise.

The French last deployed the carrier to the Middle East in shortly after the January attacks on the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris. During the seven weeks the carrier was in the Persian Gulf it conducted about 200 sorties against ISIS targets primarily in Iraq.

  • disqus_zommBwspv9

    Launch the Harriers Launch. Sort of the old ” Land the Landing Force” at H hour.

  • Wagdoox

    In Jordan and UAE, they are 6 Rafales and 6 mirage 2000.
    The Rafale M (for marine) is on the carrier, 18 of the them plus 8 super etendard modernises.

  • Hugh

    It’s hopeful seeing the Russians working with our others now.

    Also good on the Harriers, able to use any flat top.

    • publius_maximus_III

      Probably better to have Hornets on station though — less complicated maintenance than a Harrier (I would think — no diverter). But in the clutch while our big carriers are swapping out, better to have a presence than not. Land based AF helps, too.

      With all the U.S., French, and Russian aircraft about to share the same air space over Syria and Iraq, it’s going to get a little hairy for our pilots — not just avoiding any SAM ground defenses that ISIL might be able to muster, but also avoiding accidental encounters with friendlies. Three forces, three languages, one enemy.

      • publius_maximus_III

        All pilots repeat after me:
        “Spa-ci-ba”
        “Mer-ci”
        “Thanks”

      • PunchyUSMC

        AND the Harriers are not Link 16 capable (coalition standard for aviation situational awareness and Common Tactical Picture).

  • publius_maximus_III

    ” ‘…here to degrade and destroy ISIL’s current operations under OIR,’ Kearsarge ARG commander Capt. Augustus Bennett said, referring to the Islamic State by an alternate name, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant…”

    What else would the good Captain call them, without risk of an instant “Loss in Confidence” charge, and a quick air lift back to a desk job in the states? Welcome to the Navy and Marine Corps, PC. I wonder if the term “Islamic Terrorists” is allowed to be used anywhere within the battle group? Probably no cussing allowed either. Ladies present, don’t you know.

    On a lighter note, that Charles de Gaulle is one beautiful ship, isn’t she? Weren’t the Harriers tested for an emergency landing on her deck, or was that another ship and/or hovering plane?

  • publius_maximus_III

    Maybe divide operations up by weekday:
    –Russians take Sundays and Wednesdays
    –French take Mondays and Thursdays
    –Americans take Tuesdays and Saturdays
    (Let the suckers have Fridays off for prayers, burials, sleep…)

  • StealthFlyer

    Error: “Just days before the Kearsarge ARG left the Middle East…” Don’t you mean the Essex ARG? The Kearsarge just arrived Nov. 1.

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  • john kelly

    “Col. Brian Koch, the commanding officer of the Harrier squadron, Marine
    Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM)162 (Reinforced)…

    and elsewhere.

    I thought the AV-8 Harriers were in attack squadrons. And I thought Marine aircraft squadrons were commanded by lieutenant colonels. And how does a Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron become a Harrier squadron? And just out of curiousity, who is the CO of 26 MEU? That might be relevant to a story about deployed Marines.

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