This post has been updated to correct the homeports for USS Mitscher (DDG-57) and USS The Sullivans (DDG-68).
The Navy sortied four East Coast guided-missile destroyers as the U.S. and NATO have massed naval forces in the region, USNI News has learned.
Arleigh Burke-class destroyers USS Donald Cook (DDG-75) USS Mitscher (DDG-57) USS The Sullivans (DDG-68) and USS Gonzalez (DDG-66) left the U.S. last month as independent deployers for U.S. 6th Fleet.
“Throughout their deployment, they will participate in a range of maritime activities in support of the U.S. 6th Fleet and our NATO allies,” Navy spokesman Cmdr. Arlo Abrahamson told USNI News on Thursday.
Gonzalez and Mitscher, based at Naval Station Norfolk, Va., and Donald Cook and The Sullivans, based in Naval Mayport, Fla., departed from the East Coast in January, according to ship spotters.
All four ships are also configured for ballistic missile defense.
Cook and The Sullivans both returned from Europe last year. Cook was forward-deployed to Rota, Spain for seven years before returning to the East Coast in July. The Sullivans deployed last year with the U.K. Royal Navy’s HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08) carrier strike group and returned in November. Both ships are part of Task Force Grey Hound – an anti-submarine warfare detachment U.S. 2nd Fleet stood up last year as a sustainment mission for ships awaiting maintenance.
The ships join the four Navy BMD destroyers based in Rota, Spain – USS Ross (DDG-71), USS Roosevelt (DDG-80), USS Porter (DDG-78) and USS Arleigh Burke (DDG-51) and the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group operating in the Mediterranean Sea.
Navy officials on Thursday took pains not to directly tie the deployments to the simmering tensions between the U.S. and Russia over the 100,000 Russian troops on the border of Ukraine and the Russian naval buildup in the Black Sea. However, the collection of ships in U.S. 6th Fleet is the largest American naval force in Europe since 2018, according to USNI News carrier deployment database.
In 2018, the Truman CSG operated in the Mediterranean Sea for 79 days largely in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, the anti-ISIS missions in Syria and Iraq.
Now, USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75), Carrier Air Wing 1 and its escorts have been on station near the entrance to the Black Sea since late December under orders from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, USNI News reported.
Two of Truman’s escorts – USS Cole (DDG-67) and USS Jason Dunham (DDG-109) – had been operating in U.S. Central Command while USS Bainbridge (DDG- 96), USS Gravely (DDG-107) and Royal Norwegian Navy frigate HNoMS Fridtjof Nansen (F310) have been in 6th Fleet. Jason Dunham has recently returned to the Mediterranean, according to shipspotters.
Truman is also accompanied by guided-missile cruiser USS San Jacinto (CG-56).
The strike group recently wrapped the NATO-led Neptune Strike, which featured Italian Navy F-35B aircraft carrier ITS Cavour (CVH-550). The group also operated with French Navy carrier FS Charles de Gaulle (R 91) and its escorts.
The Navy announcement comes a day after the Russian Navy sent six amphibious warships into the Black Sea and two Russian guided-missile cruisers to the Mediterranean Sea.