USS Bataan underway at sea with USS Carter in background

The Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) and the Harpers Ferry-class dock landing ship USS Carter Hall (LSD 50) conduct routine operations in the Mediterranean Sea, August 4, 2023. U.S. Navy Photo

Over 3,000 US Navy Sailors and Marines Arrive in Middle East Amid Iranian Threat to Shipping

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 30413
August 8, 2023

More than 3,000 U.S. Navy Sailors and Marines arrived in the Middle East this week as part of a pre-announced deployment to the region coming amid heightened threats against commercial shipping from Iran near the Strait of Hormuz.

The additional forces arrived aboard amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 50) and dock landing ship USS Carter Hall (LSD 50), which have now entered the Red Sea after transiting from the Mediterranean Sea through the Suez Canal.

In addition to more troops, the Navy ships bring additional aviation and naval assets useful for protecting freedom of navigation. An amphibious assault ship can carry more than two dozen rotary-wing and fixed-wing aircraft, including MV-22 Osprey and AV-8B Harrier jets, in addition to several amphibious landing craft. A dock landing ship also supports operations for various rotary-wing aircraft, tactical vehicles and amphibious landing craft.

The deployment comes as Iran has attacked or seized around 20 merchant vessels since 2021. On July 5th, the USS McFaul disrupted two approaches on commercial ships by an Iranian naval vessel. In one of the instances, the Iranian vessel came within one mile of the Bahamas-flagged tanker Richmond Voyager and fired on it with small arms. The tanker is chartered by US-based Chevron.

STRAIT OF HORMUZ (May 3, 2023) A screenshot of a video showing fast-attack craft from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy swarming Panama-flagged oil tanker Niovi as it transits the Strait of Hormuz, May 3, 2023. U.S. Navy Photo

In April, Iran seized the Houston-bound Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker Advantage Sweet, chartered by Chevron, in international waters in the Gulf of Oman. About a week later, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) seized another tanker, the Panama-flagged Niovi, as it was passing through the Strait of Hormuz. 

“As we have been for a very long time, we’re coordinating with our partners in the region when it comes to U.S. military presence because, again, it’s not just the U.S. military that’s out there patrolling commercial shipping lanes. We’re working as part of a broader coalition,” Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters.

Ryder said the increased U.S. presence in the Middle East is intended to help partners keep open critical shipping lanes, including the Strait of Hormuz.

“That’s why we’ve deployed these additional assets, to give us additional options, to speed up timelines and, again, broadly, to ensure stability,” Ryder said. 

The deployment comes amid reporting that the U.S. is considering placing armed military personnel on foreign-flagged commercial ships traveling through the Strait of Hormuz, which sees more than 20% of the world’s oil transportation, as a deterrent.

The U.S. 5th Fleet’s area of operations covers approximately 2.5 million square miles of water, including the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea, parts of the Indian Ocean.

Last month, the Department of Defense announced that it will send an additional U.S. Navy destroyer, USS Thomas Hudner, along with F-35 and F-16 fighter jets, to the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.

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