Pentagon Extends USS Gerald R. Ford Deployment, Will Move U.S. Marines Closer to Israel

October 17, 2023 3:55 PM
USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) and the USNS Laramie (T-AO-203) conduct a refueling-at-sea in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, Oct. 11, 2023. US Navy Photo

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has moved to extend the deployment of the Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group and will move Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary closer to the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, Pentagon spokesperson Sabrina Singh told reporters on Tuesday.

USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) and its escorts have been operating in the Eastern Mediterranean since last week following the Hamas attacks in southern Israel“, to send a message of deterrence,” she said.

Ford deployed in May and has been operating in the Mediterranean Sea as part of the U.S. presence operations in U.S. European Command to deter Russia from expanding its conflict in Ukraine. Prior to the extension, Ford was set to be relieved by the Dwight D. Eisenhower CSG to continue the presence mission the U.S. in the Mediterranean Sea. Now both strike groups are set to operate in the Mediterranean Sea. USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) and its escorts departed Naval Station Norfolk, Va., on Saturday.

“The increases to U.S. force posture signal the United States’ ironclad commitment to Israel’s security and our resolve to deter any state or non-state actor seeking to escalate this war,” Austin said in a Saturday statement.

Additionally, Singh confirmed that elements of the 26th MEU would be moved closer to Israel.

“They are there if needed and at the secretary’s and president’s discretion,” she said.
“They don’t have orders.”

The Bataan Amphibious Ready Group is split between USS Bataan (LHD-5) and USS Carter Hall (LSD-50) operating together in the Middle East while USS Mesa Verde (LPD-19) had been operating in the Mediterranean.

Bataan and Carter Hall had departed the Persian Gulf over the weekend and as of Monday were operating in the Gulf of Oman, according to the USNI News Fleet and Marine Tracker.

Mesa Verde had split from the ARG early in the deployment operating near Norway and the Baltic Sea before passing through the Strait of Gibraltar on Oct. 3.

Mesa Verde could be in the Eastern Med. in just a couple of days while Bataan and Carter Hall would need to sail through the Red Sea and through the Suez Canal, based on the USNI News understanding of the ship positions as of Tuesday.

For its part, Ike will take a week or more to reach the Mediterranean and then it would take several more days to travel closer to Israel.

In addition to the naval forces, Pentagon leaders have issued a warning order to commanders to put 2,000 U.S. troops on standby for a potential deployment to region as a deterrent from the conflict spreading wider.

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.
Follow @samlagrone

Get USNI News updates delivered to your inbox