Home » Foreign Forces » Amphib USS Iwo Jima Now in Persian Gulf; First U.S. Capital Ship in Region Since March


Amphib USS Iwo Jima Now in Persian Gulf; First U.S. Capital Ship in Region Since March

USS Iwo Jima (LHD-7) on June 13, 2018. US Navy Photo

THE PENTAGON – Amphibious warship USS Iwo Jima (LHD-7) crossed into the Persian Gulf this week, returning a U.S. Navy capital ship to the region for the first time since late March, USNI News has learned.

The two-and-a-half-month gap between the arrival of Iwo Jima and the March departure of aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) is the longest gap the Navy has had without a capital ship — a carrier or a big-deck amphibious assault ship — in the Gulf in recent memory.

When USS Nimitz (CVN-68) departed the Gulf in October, amphib USS America (LHA-6) passed through the Strait of Hormuz into the Gulf a few days after. In 2015, a two and a half month gap between the departure of the Roosevelt CSG and the arrival of the Harry S. Truman CSG was covered by initial strike sorties from Marine Harriers on USS Kearsarge (LHD-3) and the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle.

When contacted by USNI News, service representatives declined to elaborate on the move of Iwo Jima.

“The Navy remains committed to supporting U.S. Central Command to ensure it has the capabilities it needs for maritime security in the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command area of operations,” reads a statement from U.S. 5th Fleet to USNI News on Thursday. “We are not going to discuss the timing of operational movements of ships into, around, and out of the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.”

For the last several weeks, U.S. naval power has been focused in the Mediterranean and Baltic seas in U.S. 6th Fleet rather than in the Middle East and 5th Fleet. The Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group that left the U.S. in mid-April with a larger-than-average number of escort ships still remains in 6th Fleet. The Truman CSG has been launching strikes against Islamic State targets from the Eastern Mediterranean, compared to the Theodore Roosevelt CSG doing so from the Persian Gulf during its deployment. Additionally, the two other ships in the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group – USS Oak Hill (LSD-51) and USS New York (LPD-21) – are operating in the Baltic and Mediterranean seas respectively, along with the embarked 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit spread among the three ships.

The recent emphasis of forces in and around Europe and Northern Africa are indicative of how the Navy is deploying forces differently since the rollout of new strategic guidance from the Pentagon in January, two Navy officials told USNI News on Thursday.

Acting under Secretary of Defense James Mattis’ mandate to be “strategically predictable and operationally unpredictable,” the Navy has been experimenting with the idea of “dynamic force employment.” Unlike past deployments, where East and West Coast carriers moved to the Gulf, operated for three months and then returned to their respective homeports, the new dynamic force employment model would attempt to take the predictability out of the deployment schedule.

“If you think about all the ways you could increase the power of the Navy, it’s not necessarily going forward, disaggregating the strike group and doing those sorts of operations,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson told USNI News last month.

Part of the new model is to emphasize preparing for higher-end warfare against great power adversaries like Russia and China, which is arguably easier the more expansive water of the Mediterranean versus the much more narrow Persian Gulf.

“It’s an aspect of the security environment that it’s getting harder to do things without being observed, no matter where you are. So we’re going to have to be clever about that,” Richardson told USNI News last month, who suggested that conducting high-end training in a less-predictable manner while overseas or making more forces available to train back at home would be required.

The presence of a U.S. capital ship in the Gulf – usually a carrier — has been a near constant since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Sorties from carriers in the Persian Gulf at one time accounted for a third of the strike missions over Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom. When Secretary of Defense James Mattis was the head of U.S. Central Command, he pushed to have two carriers strike groups in the Gulf in order to support the OEF mission and act as deterrence to Iran, whose fleet of small boats was actively harassing naval and merchant vessels at the time.

Following the implementation of the Budget Control Act, in 2013 the Navy pared down its carrier presence in the Persian Gulf. Around the same time, the air war in Afghanistan began to draw down, and naval aviation instead focused on strikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria. In addition to a shift in air missions for the U.S., Iranian small boat harassment has dwindled since a 2016 spike which could, in turn, reduce the need for a larger U.S. Navy presence in the region. Instead, Tehran has increased its use of unmanned aerial vehicles in the region.

  • publius_maximus_III

    That’s a dangerous part of the world to be all on your lonesome. No escorts at all for the LHD? Wouldn’t she at least be in need of an Oiler, or does she put into port for refueling?

    • John Locke

      Usually there’s an MSC unit in the region or yes, pull into Bahrain for stores. There’s also forward deployed PC’s and constant MARPAT.

    • Rocco

      She has escorts!! Just not revealed! Possible a sub in the vicinity. Plus she is carrying F-35B’s!

      • PolicyWonk

        Yep – the flat tops typically have an SSN assigned…

      • Duane

        Unless I missed the announcement, only the America and the Wasp have received the modifications necessary to deploy F-35s, including the special flight deck thermal coatings to withstand the jet blast of the F-35. Eventually the Iwo and all of the aviation amphibs will get the mods and the aircraft, but over an extended multi-year schedule as the aircraft are built.

        • Rocco

          Yes I’ve seen what mods the WASP received during fleet week! The USS Tripoli is already as built for it! & LHD – 3 was already done!

      • Bryan

        Recently dated pic shows harriers?

    • waveshaper1

      Go to the “USS Iwo Jima Command Home Page” for daily/hourly updates (OPSEC?);
      Excerpt; The Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group includes the embarked 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, the USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), the transport dock ship USS New York (LPD 21), the dock landing ship USS Oak Hill (LSD 51), Fleet Surgical Team 4 and 8, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 28, Tactical Air Control Squadron 22, components of Naval Beach Group 2 and the embarked staff of commander, Amphibious Squadron 4.

    • Ser Arthur Dayne

      I am pretty sure that the Navy/USMC ‘Amphibious Read Group’ concept regularly sails 3-ship ARGs all over the world …. An ARG consists of 1 each of LHD/LHA (Amphibious Assault Ship/”mini-carrier”), LPD (Amphibious Transport Dock, a gear & Marine hauler with a large flight deck and well-deck) & an LSD (Dock Landing Ship, a big-gear hauler with less Marines carried and no aviation facilities other than the deck) and this brings an entire MEU (Marine Expeditionary Unit) with it, with all their combined arms and equipment and troops etc. — and pretty much the ARG is protected by the LHD/LHAs trifecta of defensive weapons- Sea Sparrows, Rolling Airframe Missiles, & Phalanx CIWS…. (plus of course all the aviation assets on board the Amphib) …… this is one of the reasons I have pushed so hard for the FFG(X) and wish we were getting fifty FFG(X)s instead of 30+ LCSs and 20 FFG(X)s down the road…. The FFG(X) will probably have 32 VLS cells, and will by definition have a standard compliment of Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles, (ESSMs), SM-2s, & antiship missiles. Even ONE FFG(X) attached to each Amphibious/Expeditionary group sailing would massively increase its defensive and offensive capability. Plus there would be enough to add one to each Carrier group, AND have plenty of ships left over to do stand-alone missions, independent operations, and all those lower-priority things like drug-smuggling, piracy, humanitarian , etc. As much as I know this hurts some people, the fact is, an LCS is never going to be added to an ARG/ESG/CSG anytime soon. And certainly not for all the assets it brings to the fight. Since it has very little in the way of assets to bring.

      • Duane

        No … LCS will most certainly be added to ARGs when enough of them are in service, and the Navy plans on doing exactly that.

        In case you don’t know what an ARG is and does, it operates almost entirely in the littorals. ARGs will rely heavily on LCS to do mine clearing … after all, nobody mines the middle of the oceans … minefields are virtually exclusively deployed in the littorals near harbor entrances, invasion pathways and beaches, or relatively narrow waterways. Also, ARGs will rely heavily on LCS for ASW protection in the littorals … where ARGs actually operate … and ARGs will rely on LCS, along with DDG51s, for offensive antiship missile fires.

        Geesh … your silly LCS hatred blinds you to even the most obvious concepts and realities.

        Get a grip!

      • Rocco

        So who exactly have you pushed so hard to get New FFG-X for??

  • B2

    Define capital ship, LHD-7?.. What is a term? Really?..

    This barely qualifies as such in my Big Navy book based on the end of the Cold War, 560 warship blue water US Navy I served in… That small deck ship, even with escorts is just a LIC/SOC mission capable only, non-bluewater, Sand Pebbles equivalent in my view. Yep- it may be good for Yemen only… IMO it is a poor excuse as being remotely comparable tor any real CSG or battle group, centered by a capable power projection Navy CVN based carrier airwing….

    Personally I am sick of this periodical or any other venue including the official Navy or Marine policy that compares the two as equals with deployable similiarities. They are not Mr. Sam. But who cares right? I am part of the past the real bluewater navy we are trying to recreate in talk only at the political level..

    • Rocco

      Then don’t post on it!!!!

    • Duane

      Pretty much every warship of better than 40,000 tons throughout history was called a “capital ship”.

      There is no contest, of the d*ck measuring type you seem to imply here, between CVNs and LHDs. They serve entirely different roles in the naval fleet.

      • Rocco

        Agreed

    • Ed L

      That thought went through my mind too. Back in my day our ARG/MEF there were 4 to 5 ships not counting the times we had Frigates and DDG escorts. LPH, LPD, LST, LSD and occasionally an LKA with its almost a dozen landing craft if you count the LCVP’s. But there are only Burke’s and cyclone patrol class vessels there. Not a single LCS out of the 8(LCS 5-12) available or being deployed in the PG

    • Secundius

      I suspect the 2018 definition of a Capital Ship is any with a Gun Caliber of 9mm or larger. And I suspect there’s a Lot Off 9-mils on a Gator-Freighter…

  • Bubblehead

    The LCS couldn’t protect my back yard. Nothing but a death trap.

  • B2

    Secundius,

    These aren’t really articles originated by naval experts with years of operational experience but from PAO releases and descriptions based on what the services “want to sell” re roles and missions. Maybe political types too.. IMO the USNI should rein in some of this hypothetical conjecturing that has no real naval historical relevance/precedent. Budgeteers notice this type talk and that is why we find ourselves knowing we have to build up the real Navy but are constantly distracted by poor ideas such as this discussion brings.

    As you know I am sure, there are those who want the Big Deck carrier dead as the centerpiece of the US Navy CSG. This position comes from special interest groups, advocacy from within the US Navy itself seemingly, the USAF “global reach” wing, and of course our enemies like China and Russia while they feverishly attemp to build large deck carriers. themselves! Also, it seems to me, Marines of limited scope, IMO, right up to the Commandant, oftentimes only want what they perceive as in the USMCs direct interest only. The fact is however that the US Navy must man operate and command those vulnerable Amphib ships designed with flat bottoms for brown/green water and are of no direct concern to some of the Few and the Proud……

    B2