USS Dwight D. Eisenhower Busiest U.S. Carrier Over Last 5 Years, Deployment Data Shows

June 6, 2024 2:50 PM
Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG-87) conducts a vertical replenishment with the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) while the ships operate in support of Operation Prosperity Guardian (OPG) in the Red Sea, Jan. 8, 2024. US Navy Photo

Over the last five years, no other U.S. carrier has deployed more than USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69).

Last week’s extension of Eisenhower cemented the Navy’s second oldest aircraft carrier as the busiest one based in the United States for the last five years when measured in days deployed, USNI News has learned.

From when the carrier left for deployment on Jan. 17, 2020 to today, the Naval Station Norfolk, Va.,-based Eisenhower has been deployed three times for a combined total of 556 days. This does not count training underway nor does it include sea trials. Out of the eight other U.S. aircraft carriers that have deployed since 2020, the second busiest has been USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71), which has deployed for 474 days since the start of 2020.

Overall, carriers based on the East Coast are averaging almost a month more deployed than their West Coast counterparts, according to Navy data and information from the USNI News carrier database.

Since 2020, carriers based in Naval Station Norfolk, Va., have been deployed on average for 224 days. Since late 2021, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has ordered at least one deployment extension for every East Coast carrier, at first to maintain a presence in the Mediterranean Sea during the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The demand for carriers only increased following the Hamas attack in southern Israel on Oct. 7 and the subsequent ongoing Houthi attacks on merchant shipping in the Red Sea.

According to Pentagon officials, Eisenhower has been key in the U.S. effort to keep the conflict in Yemen and Gaza from spreading.

Ike deployed on Oct. 13, transited the Strait of Gibraltar on Oct. 28 and entered the Red Sea on Nov. 4. It was the first time an aircraft carrier operated in the Middle East since USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) departed in 2021.

Until the Hamas attack, the U.S. carrier presence was focused in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Prior to arriving in the Red Sea, Ike drilled with USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) in the Mediterranean Sea, marking the first time in decades that the U.S. had two aircraft carriers in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Ford was in the Med as part of the ongoing NATO response to the Russo-Ukrainian War. But following the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks in southern Israel and Israel’s subsequent bombardment of Gaza, Ford moved to the Eastern Med. The Bataan Amphibious Group, which had been in the Middle East and responding to increased Iranian aggression toward commercial ships, moved into the Red Sea.

When Ike deployed the carrier took over for the Bataan ARG. It would have relieved the Ford Carrier Strike Group, but Austin extended Ford three times. After 257 days on deployment, Ford came home in January.

While Ike and the rest of the carrier strike group has been in the Red Sea, the ships have been involved in a number of altercations with Houthi weapons. But it’s unclear how many engagements have occurred because U.S. Central Command often does not identify the forces involved in each incident.

Ike’s first engagement with the Houthis happened on Dec. 26, when aircraft from the carrier joined USS Laboon (DDG-58) in taking down Houthi drones and missiles, USNI News reported. USS Mason (DDG-87) and USS Gravely (DDG-107), the two destroyers in the carrier strike group, have also had multiple engagements with Houthi weapons, including this past weekend when the Houthis fired two anti-ship ballistic missiles at Gravely.

The Houthis claimed to target Ike on Friday and Saturday, with social media posts on X claiming to show damage to the ship. However, its commanding officer, Capt. Chris “Chowdah” Hill, posted multiple times on X showing that the ship was unharmed. An article in Newsweek also debunked the pictures.

Heather Mongilio and Sam LaGrone

Heather Mongilio and Sam LaGrone are USNI News staff writers

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