Aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72), amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD-7), and amphibious transport dock ship USS New York (LHD-21) and guided missile destroyer USS Farragut (DDG-99), are underway moving into position to assist with Hurricane Irma recovery efforts if needed, U.S. Fleet Forces command said on Friday.
The storm, which has already savaged several Caribbean islands, including the U.S. Virgin Islands, could make landfall in Florida by Sunday, according to the National Weather Service’s latest hurricane track. Hurricane warning has already been issued for the southern part of the state.
Lincoln left Norfolk Friday, but without a full air wing. The carrier is loaded with additional helicopters to help with rescue and supplies delivery mission, according to a Navy spokesman.
Iwo Jima and New York departed Mayport, Fla. on Tuesday and loaded more than 300 Marines and Sailors from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, and II Marine Expeditionary Force, according to a Navy statement. The combined aircraft on all four ships are three CH-53E Marine Heavy Lift Helicopters, 10 MH-60S and 14 MH-60R Navy Medium Lift Helicopters.
The ships can provide medical support, security, logistic support, medium and heavy lift air support, and can assist state and federal agencies assessing damage.
Meanwhile, the Navy is already fulfilling a formal request to provide humanitarian and recovery assistance to the U.S. Virgin Islands. USS Wasp (LHD-1) is evacuating patients from the U.S. Virgin Islands while amphibious warships USS Kearsarge (LHD-3) and USS Oak Hill (LSD-51) with 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) and Federal Emergency Management Agency staff, are assisting recovering efforts, according to Northern Command.
In comparison, 12 years ago, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the Navy had 28 ships prepared to get underway within 24 hours of the storm making landfall in New Orleans. Initially, aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman was among 16 initial ships, including amphibious assault and amphibious dock transport ships to assist the Katrina relief efforts.