The three-ship Essex Amphibious Ready Group and the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit left the Middle East last week after operating in the region since late September, according to USNI News’s Fleet and Marine Tracker.
USS Essex (LHD-2), USS Portland (LPD-27), and amphibious dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor (LSD-52) are now operating in the Indian Ocean after four months in U.S Central Command.
The ARG was steaming with USS O’Kane (DDG-77) in the Indian Ocean with Essex on Jan. 9, according to a Navy photo.
With the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group operating in the Mediterranean Sea, it’s the first time the U.S. has not had a carrier strike group or ARG in U.S. 5th Fleet since late November 2020, according to the Fleet Tracker.
USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75), Carrier Air Wing 2 and its escorts were ordered by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to remain in the Mediterranean, rather than proceed to CENTCOM, as tensions between Ukraine and Russia continue to simmer.
Japan-based USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) was the last U.S. carrier in 5th Fleet, departing in mid-September. Essex relieved the Iwo Jima ARG and the 24th MEU, which left the region after supporting the withdrawal of U.S. ground forces in Afghanistan.
The San Diego-based Essex ARG quietly deployed on Aug. 12, with the 11th MEU. The 11th MEU is comprised of Battalion Landing Team 1/1, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 165 (Reinforced), Marine Attack Squadron 214, and Combat Logistics Battalion 11.