SECDEF Austin Extends USS Gerald R. Ford Deployment into 2024

December 15, 2023 10:14 PM
USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), steams in the Ionian Sea, on Oct. 4, 2023. US Navy Photo

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has extended the Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group’s deployment in the Eastern Mediterranean, a defense official told USNI News, dashing family members’ hopes of bringing the strike group back to Norfolk for the holidays.

This is now the third time the secretary of defense has extended the strike group, currently in the Eastern Mediterranean as part of the U.S.’s ongoing response to the Hamas attacks on Israel on Oct. 7. USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) and the other ships of the carrier strike group initially deployed in May to replace the George H.W. Bush CSG in the Mediterranean as part of the U.S. response to the Russo-Ukraine War. The Associated Press first reported the extension.

The last extension was in November, USNI News previously reported.

The carrier strike group has been deployed 227 days, or approximately seven and a half months. Extended deployments have become characteristic of the strike groups sent to the Mediterranean since December 2021, ahead of Russia’s February invasion of Ukraine. The George H.W. Bush CSG spent eight months on deployment, while the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group spent nine months on deployment.

The Navy’s initial goal was to send the strike group home for the holiday and reassemble the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group to support the ongoing naval presence mission, defense officials told USNI News.

The Bataan ARG deployed in July for the Middle East, as t part of the U.S. response to Iranian and Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Navy actions against commercial ships in the Strait of Hormuz. The Bataan ARG is in the Red Sea, according to USNI News’ latest Fleet Tracker.

The Bataan ARG, led by flagship USS Bataan (LHD-5), includes USS Carter Hall (LSD-50) and USS Mesa Verde (LPD-19). Both Bataan and Carter Hall have been operating together, while Mesa Verde has been sailing in the Mediterranean.

The reaggregation of the Bataan ARG would also provide support for a Lebabanon non-combative evacuation operation if needed, the defense officials told USNI News.

Heather Mongilio

Heather Mongilio

Heather Mongilio is a reporter with USNI News. She has a master’s degree in science journalism and has covered local courts, crime, health, military affairs and the Naval Academy.
Follow @hmongilio

Get USNI News updates delivered to your inbox