The U.S. could soon have two aircraft carriers in the eastern Mediterranean, according to Defense Department officials, a move that would mark a major escalation in U.S. military power in the region as fighting intensifies between Israeli forces and Hamas militants.
The aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, along with its associated warships and fighter jets, was already scheduled to depart from Norfolk, Va., this week and may be ordered to deploy to the waters off the coast of Israel, according to two DOD officials who were granted anonymity to discuss future operations.
The Eisenhower group has long been scheduled to deploy and operate near Europe, DOD spokesperson Lt. Col. Bryon McGarry said in a statement Tuesday.
The ship is slated to leave Norfolk on Friday and could reach the eastern Mediterranean by the end of October if ordered, one of the DOD officials said. At that point, the Eisenhower would join the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R Ford and its strike group, which the Pentagon ordered to the waters off Israel on Sunday as a show of force after the surprise attacks on southern Israel.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will continue to review the deployment plans of both ships, “as he considers the appropriate balance of maritime capability across theaters in support of national security priorities,” McGarry said.
The rare move to potentially have two aircraft carriers, which are accompanied by cruisers, destroyers and fighter jets as part of their strike groups, in the same area would be a major signal to Hamas that the U.S. military is supporting Israel.
The Pentagon did deploy two carriers to the Middle East in March 2020 amid heightened tension with Iran. At the time, both the Eisenhower and the USS Harry S. Truman, with their respective escorts, both operated in the Arabian Sea.
But the double carrier strategy has severely stretched the Navy in the past, with service leaders warning that it was unsustainable. Aircraft carriers are in high demand around the globe and are typically spread out to different regions.
The Wall Street Journal first reported that the U.S. was considering sending the Eisenhower toward Israel.
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