Pentagon Has No Plans to Send U.S. Navy Hospital Ship to Middle East

February 29, 2024 5:28 PM
The hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH-19) anchored off Chuuk, Federated States of Micronesia, as part of Pacific Partnership 2024-1, Jan. 18, 2024. US Navy Photo

The Department of Defense does not have any plans to send a hospital ship to the Middle East despite a congressional request.

As of Thursday, neither the Pentagon nor the Navy knew of any plans to send a hospital ship to the Middle East. Pentagon Press Secretary Maj. Gen. Patrick Ryder told reporters during a Thursday press conference that he did not have any deployments to announce. Similarly, a Navy spokesperson told USNI News that the service is not tracking any decisions to send a hospital ship to the area.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) sent a letter to President Joe Biden on Wednesday requesting he deploy a hospital ship to Gaza to provide more humanitarian aid. The senators also requested that the U.S. work with Israel and Egypt to create maritime logistic routes and allow civilian access to aid.

“Maritime support is scalable and poses less risk to U.S. personnel than relying solely on land-based operations,” the senators wrote in the letter. “Opening up routes from the sea also expands the logistics network, thereby reducing reliance on constrained land-based routes. Indeed, one ship could supply a volume of aid equivalent to as many as 800 trucks.”

In their letter, King and Reed note that the French have already sent a ship that was converted into a hospital, while Indonesia sent a hospital ship.

In November, France sent big deck amphibious warship FS Dixmude (L9015), which has been converted into a field hospital to treat Gazans wounded by Israeli bombardment and in the ongoing conflict between Hamas and Israel. Indonesia sent its hospital ship to the Middle East last month.

“We point out that the military has significant experience in deploying hospital ships worldwide and providing force protection for sea-based assets,” King and Angus wrote. “These medical ships can provide needed relief to the civilian population and reaffirm our commitment to seeking peace in the region.”

USNS Mercy (T-AH-19) completed Pacific Partnership 2024 in January and returned to San Diego, Calif., in February.

This is not the first time there have been conversations about sending a hospital ship to the Middle East. When France and Italy sent ships to bring medical capabilities in November, some naval observers – including retired U.S. Navy Adm. James Stavridis – called on the U.S. to send a hospital ship.

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

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