The Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group arrived in the Eastern Mediterranean Tuesday, a senior defense official told reporters Thursday.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin ordered the strike group, led by USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), the largest aircraft carrier in the U.S. Navy, to the Eastern Mediterranean in response to Saturday’s attacks in Israel.
“Let me again reiterate one of the main messages that this rapid increase in posture is intended to send to both state or nonstate actors. The United States is unequivocal in its support for the defense of Israel and is sending a warning to any entity that would consider taking advantage of this conflict and this war to escalate violence. One word quite simply, don’t,” the senior defense official said Thursday.
The ship is meant to deter Iran and Lebanese militant group Hezbollah from engaging in the conflict between Israel and U.S. State Department-desginated terrorist group Hamas, USNI News previously reported.
The Ford Carrier Strike Group has a range of capabilities, the senior defense official said. While in the Eastern Mediterranean, the strike group – consisting of Ford, Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG-60) and Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Thomas Hudner (DDG-116), USS Ramage (DDG-61), USS Carney (DDG-64) and USS Roosevelt (DDG-80) – will provide intelligence and maritime support as well as long-range trade options, the senior defense official said.
While the senior defense official told reporters that the Defense Department expected to see more “posture increasing flowing in” the next week, they referred to the posture changes already announced by Austin, adding it would take some time to get all military assets to Israel.
The Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group is set to deploy on Friday, but a defense official told USNI News that the carrier is likely headed to U.S. European Command, rather than U.S. Central Command.
The Ford Carrier Strike Group deployed in May, replacing the George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group, which deployed to the Mediterranean last August and returned home in April. The deployment included an extension. The Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group was in the Mediterranean before the Bush CSG for nine months in a deployment that also included extensions.
It’s not clear if Austin will order an extension for the Ford Carrier Strike Group. A defense official told USNI News no determination had been made.
The United Kingdom is also sending naval assets to the Eastern Mediterranean in support of Israel, according to the BBC.
The U.K. is sending two Royal Navy ships and surveillance aircraft, with patrols expected to begin Friday.