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Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder announced on Monday that the decision to redirect the Ike Carrier Strike Group to the US Central Command was made by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.
Initially deployed on October 14th, the group, which features the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, and the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea, was set to operate in the US European Command region. While the ship lingered near Virginia Beach for some final carrier qualifications, it is now advancing through the western Atlantic.
A senior defense official emphasized the strategic significance of such moves, stating, “When we send them somewhere, we are deliberately sending an incredibly strong signal to our adversaries, but also to our allies and partners… That’s what we’re demonstrating today in the Middle East.”
This deployment marks the first Carrier Strike Group in the region since the 2021 Afghanistan withdrawal. It’s projected that the strike group will travel through the Mediterranean Sea and the Suez Canal, converging with other US naval forces in the Mediterranean.
Amid these naval operations, there’s an evident increase in drone and rocket attacks on US forces in the Middle East. According to US officials, the Eisenhower and Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Groups play a pivotal role in deterring nations, including Iran, from escalating the existing Israel-Hamas conflict.
Their deployment is a direct response to the recent Hamas attacks in Israel, aiming to prevent further expansion of the conflict. In conjunction with these efforts, Austin has also authorized the deployment of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense battery and more Patriot battalions for increased US force protection in the Middle East.