U.S. Navy Flexes Muscles in Persian Gulf
By JAMES CALDERWOOD and JIM KRANE
ABOARD THE USS JOHN C. STENNIS (AP) - American warplanes screamed off two
aircraft carriers Tuesday as the U.S. Navy staged its largest show of force
in the Persian Gulf since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, launching a mammoth
exercise meant as a message to the Iranians.
The maneuvers with 15 warships and more than 100 aircraft were sure to
heighten tensions with
military presence off its coast and is in a faceoff with the West over its
nuclear program and its capture of a British naval team.
While they would not say when the war games were planned,
insisted the exercises were not a direct response to Friday's seizure of the
15 British sailors and marines, but they also made clear that the flexing of
the Navy's military might was intended as a warning.
"If there is strong presence, then it sends a clear message that you better
be careful about trying to intimidate others," said Capt. Bradley Johanson,
commander of the Stennis.
done," he added.
The exercises began four days after Iranian forces detained the 15 Britons
for allegedly being in Iranian territorial waters near the northern end of
cargo vessels inside Iraqi waters.
F/A-18 fighter jets roared off the Stennis' flight deck all day, mounting a
dozen rapid-fire training sorties against imaginary enemy ships and
aircraft. A second task force with the carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower also
took part in the drills.
"These maneuvers demonstrate our flexibility and capability to respond to
threats to maritime security," said Navy Lt. John Perkins, 32, of
"They're showing we can keep the maritime environment safe and the vital
link to the global economy open."
At the headquarters of the Navy's 5th Fleet in
said the maneuvers would last several days. He said
A French naval strike group, led by the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle,
was operating just outside the Gulf in the
were supporting NATO forces in
maneuvers, Aandahl said.
At the Pentagon, spokesman Bryan Whitman said the Navy routinely conducts
exercises when its forces are deployed near each other.
"The exercise should reassure our friends and allies of our commitment to
security and stability in the region," Whitman said. "We are not interested
in confrontation in the Gulf."
The war games involve more than 10,000
attacks on enemy aircraft and ships, while hunting submarines and looking
"What it should be seen as by
stability and security," Aandahl said. "These ships are just another
demonstration of that. If there's a destabilizing effect, it's
Iranian war games.
while in October the Navy led a training exercise aimed at blocking nuclear
In January, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the Stennis strike group was
being sent to the Mideast as a warning to
military has become focused on the wars in
officials have publicly called on
military bases and join
Leaders of Arab nations around the Gulf have grown increasingly uneasy with
attacks on their own soil. But none has shown interest in an alliance with
In February, the 5th Fleet's then-commander, Vice Adm. Patrick Walsh, said
he had assured Arab allies that
that boils over into war" with
The Stennis strike group, with more than 6,500 sailors and marines, entered
the Gulf late Monday or early Tuesday along with the guided-missile cruiser
USS Antietam, the Navy said.
The Stennis, which had been supporting military operations in
It is the first time two
since the U.S.-led invasion of
operating off the coast of
Each carrier carries an air wing of F/A-18 Hornet and Super Hornet
fighter-bombers, EA-6B Prowler electronic warfare aircraft, S-3 Viking
refueling and anti-submarine planes, and E-2C Hawkeye airborne
Also taking part were six guided-missile destroyers, the
O'Kane, Mason, Preble and Nitze; the frigate Hawes; amphibious assault ships
James Calderwood reported from aboard the Stennis and Jim Krane from