USS Makin Island, Marine F-35s Now in Persian Gulf

February 9, 2021 12:09 PM - Updated: February 10, 2021 4:11 PM
USS Makin Island (LHD-8) and the embarked 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) transit the Strait of Hormuz, Feb. 8, 2021. US Navy Photo

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.

Two U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning IIs, assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 164 (Reinforced), 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, stand chained to the flight deck aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD-8). US Navy Photo

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 IslandSomerset 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.

Guided-missile cruiser USS Port Royal (CG-73) transits the Strait of Hormuz, Feb. 8, 2021. US Marine Corps Photo

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.

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone is the editor of USNI News. He has covered legislation, acquisition and operations for the Sea Services since 2009 and spent time underway with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the Canadian Navy.
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