Reuters reported Friday that on Monday a third nuclear-powered aircraft carrier (the USS Nimitz) and accompanying strike group will sail from San Diego to the Persian Gulf. -- "The new battle group will be in position by late April," AFP reported. -- Navy Times reported that "Navy Rear Adm. Terry Blake, who commands Carrier Strike Group 11, will lead the force that includes the Lemoore, Calif.-based Carrier Air Wing 11 and the San Diego-based Destroyer Squadron 23. -- Also deploying Monday are the guided missile cruiser Princeton and guided missile destroyers Higgins, Chafee, John Paul Jones and Pinckney, along with two detachments of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light 49 and Detachment 15 of Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit 11. -- Nimitz’s air wing includes: Strike Fighter Squadrons 14, VFA-41 and VFA-81; Airborne Early Warning Squadron 117; Electronic Warfare Squadron 135; Carrier Logistics Support Squadron 30; and Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron 6." -- William Arkin discussed the move in an inconclusive article in his "Early Warning" blog on the Washington Post web site. -- Stars and Stripes reported Saturday that the USS Stennis "will make its first port call of this Middle East mission, officials said Friday," but "[t]he Navy did not say where the Stennis’ port call would take place." ...
U.S. WINDS UP BIGGEST WAR GAMES IN GULF SINCE 2003
March 30, 2007
MANAMA -- The U.S. Navy said on Thursday it had ordered an aircraft carrier to the Gulf to replace one of two patrolling the region, as the United States winds down naval war games on Iran's doorstep.
The Nimitz carrier strike group will sail from San Diego for the Gulf on Monday, a Navy spokesman told Reuters, to replace the Dwight D. Eisenhower, as tensions mount between Iran and the West over captured British troops and Iran's nuclear program.
"She (the Nimitz) will deploy to the Gulf region. She is the relief for Eisenhower, who leaves and she replaces her," Lieutenant Commander Jeff Davis said by telephone from Naval Headquarters in Washington.
Strike groups typically include four or five frigates and destroyers and a submarine.
"You are looking at the early part of May that you would have the transition. It would be without any overlap. There is no plan to overlap them at all," he added.
The Eisenhower and fellow carrier John C. Stennis took part in this week's U.S. war games, the largest in Gulf waters since 2003, when the U.S. led an invasion of Iraq.
The drills, which included anti-submarine, anti-surface and mine warfare drills, end on Thursday. For the first time since the Iraq invasion four years ago, two U.S. aircraft carriers were deployed in the Gulf.
Fifth Fleet spokesman Lieutenant-Commander Charlie Brown said there were currently no plans for more.
"We do not expect to have three carriers in the Gulf region . . . but we cannot talk about future needs or future operations," he said.
Earlier in the day, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned the U.S. not to aggravate tensions with Iran with its naval presence in the Gulf.
The Fifth Fleet has said a decision to hold the exercises was taken within the last two weeks, and planning for the drills accelerated as tensions mounted between Iran and the West over Iran's nuclear program and its capture of British sailors.
Spokesmen for the fleet, based in the Gulf island state of Bahrain, have said the exercises were meant to reassure allies of the U.S. commitment to security and stability in the region. Only U.S. ships took part in the maneuvers.
On Wednesday, Iranian state media quoted Ali-Reza Tangsiri, a Revolutionary Guards navy commander, as saying Iran, which last Thursday also started a week of naval exercises in the Gulf, was monitoring foreign warships closely.
"Based on our forces' observations (U.S.) claims . . . about a big American maneuver in this region are not true," he said.
In February Iran said it had tested missiles that could "sink big warships" in the Gulf.
Britain, which maintains its 15 sailors were within Iraqi waters when captured by Iranian forces, wants U.N. Security Council members to endorse a statement that would "deplore" their detention.
U.S. CARRIER NIMITZ TO DEPLOY TO PERSIAN GULF
March 30, 2007
WASHINGTON -- Nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz will sail April 2 to support U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. Navy said, amid a spike in tensions over Iran’s seizure of 15 British marines and sailors.
The Nimitz, and its battle group of destroyers and guided-missile cruisers, will relieve the carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower, which this week took part in war games exercises in the Gulf with another carrier, John C. Stennis.
The new battle group will be in position by late April, but there will be no overlap with the Eisenhower, and the number of U.S. carriers in the area would stay at two, a navy official said on condition of anonymity.
"If anything, there would be a point where there is only one in the region," the official said, on condition of anonymity.
The Stennis and the Eisenhower wound down their show of force involving 15 warships in the Gulf on March 29.
The two-carrier deployment in the Gulf was the highest level of U.S. naval presence in the gulf since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March 2003.
The Nimitz will support operations in Iraq, the Horn of Africa and Afghanistan, the Navy said in a press release.
The Stennis had been operating in the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea but entered Gulf waters March 27, escorted by the guided-missile cruiser Antietam, the 5th Fleet said.
NIMITZ HOME LAST WEEKEND BEFORE GOING TO GULF
By Gidget Fuentes
March 30, 2007
SAN DIEGO, Calif. -- More than 6,000 sailors are spending their last weekend at home before the aircraft carrier Nimitz leaves its San Diego pier Monday on a course for the Persian Gulf.
Nimitz, a nuclear-powered carrier based at North Island Naval Air Station in Coronado, Calif., will replace the Norfolk, Va.-based Eisenhower and its carrier strike group and join the John C. Stennis carrier strike group in the Persian Gulf and Horn of Africa regions.
The pairing of the carriers is part of a beefed-up presence of U.S. and coalition naval forces “demonstrating the United States’ ability to build regional stability and bring long-term stability to the region,” Naval Air Forces officials said in a statement Friday.
The strike group will join the broader force in maritime security operations, including the boarding of suspicious vessels.
Navy Rear Adm. Terry Blake, who commands Carrier Strike Group 11, will lead the force that includes the Lemoore, Calif.-based Carrier Air Wing 11 and the San Diego-based Destroyer Squadron 23.
Also deploying Monday are the guided missile cruiser Princeton and guided missile destroyers Higgins, Chafee, John Paul Jones and Pinckney, along with two detachments of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light 49 and Detachment 15 of Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit 11.
Nimitz’s air wing includes: Strike Fighter Squadrons 14, VFA-41 and VFA-81; Airborne Early Warning Squadron 117; Electronic Warfare Squadron 135; Carrier Logistics Support Squadron 30; and Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron 6.
The deployment will be Nimitz’s third to the Persian Gulf in four years.
In mid-2005, Nimitz and its strike group operated in the Persian Gulf and U.S. 5th Fleet area to support operations in Iraq and the region. In 2003, the carrier flew combat missions over Iraq that spring and summer and supported combat operations during an eight-month deployment.
DROPPING BOMBS ON IRAN
By William Arkin
Washington Post (web site only)
March 30, 2007
The conspiracy theorists will pick up on the news out of San Diego that the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier battle group will sail Monday for the Persian Gulf as meaning WAR with Iran.
A third aircraft carrier does sound provocative and scary, especially during yet another hostage-taking and stand-off, with the continuing WMD dispute, Iran's supposed meddling in Iraq, and not to mention the county's religious and anti-Israel posturing.
And there is no question that Iran has not so slowly taken on the mantle of favorite enemy to many in Washington, even to the geopolitically challenged who seem content, even desperate, to join the neocons in blithely referring to war there as more justified than Iraq.
The change in tone is itself worrisome, because when combined with all of the war speculation, and with all of the crying wolf and military moves that are advertised as being intended to provoke, Iran might come to the wrong conclusion and feel compelled to militarily lash out.
The USS Nimitz is sailing Monday, but Navy spokesmen tell the *Los Angeles Times* that there will be no overlap of three aircraft carriers in the Gulf.
The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower will be returning to the United States.
The decision to send another carrier to the Gulf is itself a signal of a change; at least for now, it appears that the United States will maintain a two carrier presence in the region rather than just one.
Even if that two carrier presence isn't specifically intended to be directed at Iran, it does have that effect.
Aircraft carrier exercises, moreover, such as the one the United States recently concluded, the "largest" since 2003, have the impact of signaling American military readiness.
One can't help but think that Iran's capture of the Royal Marines and sailors must be connected to the desire to have some kind of bargaining chip at a time when Tehran perceives that America is readying for war.
Are the aircraft carriers essential to an offensive U.S. war?
The latest articulation of such a war comes from retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas G. McInerney, who writes in today's Wall Street Journal ("Iran Escalates") of the need for a "clear strategy" to counter Iran's "aim to drive the U.S. from the Middle East" and intimidate the West.
The "clear strategy" McInerney seems to salivate over is what he calls "minimal military pressure" through a "tit-for-tat" of U.S. airstrikes on Iranian nuclear facilities every time an American soldier is killed with a so-called "explosively formed penetrator," a shaped charge being used in Iraq in IED attacks. A soldier is killed in Iraq, the U.S. bombs in Iran, that's McInerney's recommendation.
The idiocy of this "calculated response," as McInerney calls it, is not only that such a direct attack would be a declaration of war, but also it imagines a level of control in the world and in warfare that doesn't exist in the real world.
First, it imagines that Tehran indeed controls what happens in Iraq and that the regime itself is indeed responsible for the EFPs. There are some who desperately want to trace the EFPs back to the Iranian regime, but that is by no means a foregone conclusion.
Second, McInterney's calculated response wrongly imagines that the United States can bomb and control what happens thereafter. Haven't we yet learned that this doesn't work, that it didn't work in Afghanistan, where we are still fighting and not controlling the situation on the ground; and it certainly did work in Iraq, where we are just hoping for an honorable exit?
Don't worry though: If escalation indeed occurs, McInerney is happy and ready with what he calls an "air offensive" and a military strategy directed at Iran that he likens to the Reagan administration's military buildup that bankrupted the Soviet Union and won the Cold War: "The immediate strike force could be composed of some 75 stealth attack aircraft -- B2s, F117s and the F22s -- and some 250 nonstealth F15s, F16s, B52s, B1s and three carrier battle groups. These carrier battle groups are composed of over 120 F18s and cruise missiles galore. We also have over 750 UAVs for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance in Iraq today. There is more than enough to support a campaign aimed at demonstrating to the Iranian regime that with 48 hours we could hit its nuclear development facilities, command and control facilities, integrated air defenses, Air Force and Navy units, and the Shahab 3 missiles using over 2,500 aim points."
Imagining Iran is THE evil empire, McInerney calls for greater investments in missile defenses, bunker busters, and other high technology doo-dads that he says will force Iran to "expend its resources to keep pace with our technological advances."
As if Iran is going to try to compete with the United States militarily, and even with conventional weapons, carrying out a losing plan just because this retired general says so and because this would be the most convenient way to "defeat" them?
Fortunately for us, the professionals in the military dismiss this kind of armchair generalship for what it is: amateurish and promiscuous speculation devoid of any political context or reality.
But what about the Iranians? I'm afraid they read this drivel in the Wall Street Journal and imagine that it is some kind of "message" written by White House neocons, that it is an American threat.
Of course, sophisticated Iranians will see it as just another article and will cable back to Tehran or caution their bosses not to be spooked or provoked. On the other hand, hard liners in the Iranian regime will believe every word, using and misusing such a description of war as justification for their own desired Iranian moves, moves that push us closer and closer to confrontation.
This just goes to prove that there are clumsy and foolish players on both sides, in Iran and in the United States.
It should be a reminder that before we declare Iran the next enemy we think through the implications of our own declarations. Even our words can be like bombs dropping, the effects of which we don't really understand and can't control.
USS STENNIS FINISHES FIRST GULF EXERCISES
Stars and Stripes
March 31, 2007
The USS John C. Stennis has completed a dual-carrier exercise with the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower in the Persian Gulf and will make its first port call of this Middle East mission, officials said Friday.
The two carriers had been involved in high-profile exercises this week in international waters near Iran, as tensions with that nation rose in the wake of Iran seizing 15 British sailors and marines in the gulf.
While U.S. military officials pointedly did not name Iran in talking about the exercises, they were aimed at demonstrating “the importance of both strike groups’ ability to plan and conduct dual task force operations as part of the Navy’s commitment to maintaining maritime security and stability in the region.”
The Navy did not say where the Stennis’ port call would take place, but noted that it is the first “liberty” granted to the ship’s sailors in 10 weeks at sea.
Before getting to the gulf on Monday, the Stennis had been in the northern Arabian Sea in support of ground forces in Afghanistan.
The Stennis left its homeport in Bremerton, Wash., on Jan. 16.
“I always get a charge out of announcing liberty call,” Command Master Chief Joseph Curtin said in a news release. “Everybody’s been out here for a long time and working hard. We earned it.”
The Stennis Carrier Strike Group includes Carrier Air Wing 9, Destroyer Squadron 21, the USS Antietam, the USS Preble, the USS O’Kane, and the USNS Bridge.