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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - WASHINGTON — The US Navy is pulling the world’s largest warship, sent to the eastern Mediterranean Sea after Hamas’ October 7 attack on Israel, back to the United States as it reevaluates its global force requirements, the US Sixth Fleet said in a statement Monday.
The aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford will head back to its homeport of Norfolk, Virginia, after its first combat deployment, an eight-month cruise that began on May 2, the statement said.
The Ford – described by a Navy spokesperson as the “most adaptable and lethal combat platform in the world” – was commissioned in 2017 and is the US Navy’s newest aircraft carrier and the lead ship in the Navy’s first new carrier class designed in over 40 years.
The 100,000-ton warship, with a contingent of F/A-18 Super Hornet jet fighters aboard, arrived off the coast of Israel in the days following Hamas’ surprise attacks that killed more than 1,200 people.
That movement was ordered so the Ford could contribute to US “regional deterrence and defense posture,” the Sixth Fleet said.
With the Ford’s departure, the USS Eisenhower is the lone US aircraft carrier in the region as tensions increase over Houthi attacks on commercial shipping in the Red Sea.
The Houthis have launched dozens of attacks on commercial vessels since October 7, saying they are acting in solidarity with Hamas amid the group’s war with Israel.
Over the weekend, US forces, including helicopters operating off the Eisenhower, had their first deadly confrontation with Houthi units, sinking three Houthi boats that had attacked a commercial ship and fired at the US copters that came to its aid.
“The US Navy helicopters returned fire in self-defense, sinking three of the four small boats, and killing the crews. The fourth boat fled the area,” a statement from US Central Command said.
US Sixth Fleet said even with the departure of the Ford, the US Navy retains “extensive capability both in the Mediterranean and across the Middle East.”
The Sixth Fleet statement said the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan, which can carry Marine Corps F-35 stealth fighters, as well as the dock landing ship USS Carter Hall and amphibious transport dock USS Mesa Verde were operating together in the eastern Mediterranean.
US guided-missile destroyers, including some of which have brought down Houthi drones and missiles in recent weeks, are also in the region, Sixth Fleet said.
In addition, the US has begun Operation Prosperity Guardian, a maritime coalition aimed at beefing up security in the southern Red Sea.
“We are collaborating with Allies and partners to bolster maritime security in the region. DoD will continue to leverage its collective force posture in the region to deter any state or non-state actor from escalating this crisis beyond Gaza,” the Sixth Fleet statement said. — CNN
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