USS Bataan, USS Carter Back in the Eastern Mediterranean After 5 Months in Middle East

December 28, 2023 6:48 PM
A UH-1Y Venom helicopter, attached to Marine Medium Tilt Rotor Squadron 162 (Reinforced), conducts flight operations from the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD-5), Nov. 6, 2023. US Navy Photo

Amphibious warships USS Bataan (LHD-5) and USS Carter Hall (LSD-50) transited the Suez Canal on Thursday after almost five months of operating in the Middle East, U.S. 6th Fleet announced.

The two ships, “will join the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Mesa Verde (LPD-19). With the embarked 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), these ships will re-aggregate as the Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) in the Eastern Mediterranean,” reads the statement from U.S. 6th Fleet.

Since Aug. 6, the pair of ships with the embarked North Carolina-based 26th MEU have been operating in U.S. 5th Fleet at first as a hedge against commercial ship harassment by Iranian forces and then as part of the U.S. Navy presence force in the Red Sea after the Hamas attacks in Southern Israel on Oct. 7th.

Bataan and Carter Hall entered the Persian Gulf on Aug. 17, with a group of Marines and sailors who were trained as fly-on teams to protect merchant traffic in the Middle East. The two ships left the Persian Gulf in mid-October and have been operating in the Red Sea since late October.

Mesa Verde, part of the three-ship Amphibious Ready Group, had been operating independently of Bataan and Carter Hall since the trio deployed in July. The San Antonio-class amphibious warship had operated in the North Atlantic and the Baltic Sea entering the Mediterranean Sea on Oct. 3.

The move of Bataan and Carter Hall to the Eastern Mediterranean had initially been planned for last month in anticipation of carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) and its escorts returning home in time for the holidays.

Instead of leaving the Mediterranean for the U.S., Ford’s deployment was extended by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin for a second time in November. As of Thursday, Ford had been deployed for 240 days.

Meanwhile, the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group is operating in the Gulf of Aden, just south of the Bab el Mandeb. Super Hornets from USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) interdicted a series of attack drones in the Red Sea on Tuesday.

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.
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