Amphibious warship USS Makin Island (LHD-8) , its Amphibious Ready Group and elements of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit transited the Strait of Hormuz and is now in the Persian Gulf, according to U.S. 5th Fleet.
Makin Island transited into the Persian Gulf on late Monday, following the Feb. 5 transit of USS Somerset (LPD-25), Navy officials confirmed to USNI News on Tuesday. The third ship in the ARG, USS San Diego (LPD-22) had been quietly operating in the Persian Gulf since late January, departed the Persian Gulf on Monday and is now operating in the Gulf of Oman.
Embarked on Makin Island are a detachment of Marine F-35B Lighting II Joint Strike Fighters assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 164 (Reinforced). The ARG/MEU used the F-35s to fly close air support missions in support of Operation Octave Quartz – the repositioning of about 700 U.S. troops from Somalia to other parts of Africa.
According to ship spotters, Makin Island transited the strait with guided-missile cruiser USS Port Royal (CG-73) and the fleet oiler USNS Carl Brashear (T-AKE-7).
Makin Island is the first U.S. capital ship to operate in the Persian Gulf since USS Nimitz (CVN-68). Nimitz and its escorts spent two months operating in the Persian Gulf from September to November before departing for exercises with the Indian Navy and later to support Octave Quartz with the Makin Island ARG.
Makin Island, Somerset and San Diego departed the West Coast in October and began their deployment in November after completing a series of pre-deployment exercises off of California.
The U.S. has maintained a major naval presence in the Middle East consistently since May 2019 as a hedge against Iran. Since then, the Navy has positioned a carrier strike group in the North Arabian Sea with few gaps in presence. Nimitz initially entered 5th Fleet in July after starting its deployment in June.
On Monday, Nimitz and its escorts drilled with the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group in the South China Sea. USNI News understands the Nimitz is heading swiftly back to the West Coast and could be back as early as the end of the month. While the carrier, escorts and air wing has been deployed since June, the sailors have been separated from their families since late April as a measure to mitigate the spread of COVID 19.