The U.S. Navy sent a not-so-subtle message to adversaries in the form of a dual-carrier, multi-national operation this week in the Mediterranean Sea.
Carriers USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74) and USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) and a collection their escorts, airwings and warships from Spain, the U.K. and France came together for several days of exercises as the carriers crossed paths in the Med.
The exercise also included a visit this week from U.S. ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman, who stressed the message the two-carrier exercise was transmitting from Washington.
“When you have 200,000 tons of diplomacy that is cruising in the Mediterranean — this is what I call diplomacy. This is forward-operating diplomacy, nothing else needs to be said,” he told CNN.
The exercise included the U.K. Type 45 guided-missile destroyer HMS Duncan (D 37), the French guided-missile frigate FS Languedoc (D 653) and the Spanish Alvaro de Bazan-class frigate ESPS Méndez Núñez (F 104), according to photos and video released on Wednesday.
Navy leaders in the region have highlighted the exercise as part of ongoing and deepening cooperation between U.S. and NATO allies.
“In the era of great power competition, particularly in the maritime domain, one carrier strike group provides tremendous operational flexibility and agility,” commander of U.S. Naval Forces in Europe Adm. James Foggo said in a statement this week.
In a separate statement, U.S. 6th Fleet commander Vice Adm. Lisa Franchetti stressed the ability of the Navy to mix and match forces.
“It’s a rare opportunity to train with two carrier strike groups together,” she said in a statement this week. “Dual-carrier operations here in the Mediterranean showcase the inherent flexibility and scalability maritime forces provide to the joint force, while demonstrating our ironclad commitment to the stability and security of the region.”
Stennis and Lincoln met as the former is nearing the end of its deployment and the second is just beginning.
The Stennis Carrier Strike Group entered the Mediterranean last week on its way to a homeport change to Naval Station Norfolk, Va., and the start of its mid-life refueling and complex overhaul.
Lincoln departed Norfolk in late March for a planned deployment to Europe, the Middle East and the Western Pacific before arriving at its new homeport at Naval Station San Diego, Calif.
Since last year, the Navy has placed a greater emphasis in operating in Europe as the Pentagon’s new National Defense Strategy has singled out high-end warfare with Russia and China as the new focus of military planning.
In 2018, the Navy sent USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) and its strike group to drill with NATO allies north of the Arctic Circle for the first time since the Cold War in a clear show of force directed at Moscow.
The message from the Stennis, Lincoln and NATO exercise is much the same.
“Two carrier strike groups operating simultaneously … provides an unprecedented deterrent against unilateral aggression, as well as combined lethality,” Foggo said. “It also should leave no doubt to our nations’ shared commitment to security and stability in the region.”