DEBKAfile: A third US carrier, the nuclear-powered USS Enterprise Strike Group is speeding towards the Persian Gulf
June 21, 2007, 12:17 PM (GMT+02:00)
According to DEBKAfile's military sources, the US naval build-up off the shores of Iran marks rising military tensions in the region, accentuated by last week's Hamas victory which has endowed Iran with a military foothold on Israel's southwestern border.
The USS Enterprise CVN 65-Big E Strike Group, the US Navy's largest air carrier, will join the USS Stennis and the USS Nimitz carriers, building up the largest sea, air, marine concentration the United States has ever deployed opposite Iran. This goes towards making good on the assurances of four carriers US Vice President Dick Cheney offered the Gulf and Middle East nations during his May tour of the region.
The "Big E" leads a strike group consisting of the guided-missile destroyers USS Arleigh Burke DDG 51, USS Stout DDG 55, Forrest Sherman DDG 98 and USS James E. Williams DDG 95, as well as the guided missile cruiser USS Gettysburg CG 64, the SS Philadelphia SSN 690 nuclear submarine and the USNS Supply T-AOE 6>
On its decks are the Carrier Air Wing CVW 1, whose pilots fought combat missions in the Gulf and Arabian Sea during 2006. The Air Wing is made up of F/Q-18 Super Hornet strike craft, the Sidewinders Strike Fighter Squadron VFA-86, the 251st Marine Fighter Attack Squadron MFA, and the Electronic Attack Squadron VAQ 137.
The 32nd Sea Control Squadron VS consists of S-3B Vikings. The Airborne Early Warning Squadron VAQ 3 flies E-2C Hawkeye craft. The Fleet Logistics Support Squadron VRC is based on C-2A Greyhounds.
DEBKAfile's military sources report Washington is considering deploying the fourth US carrier for the region in the Red Sea opposite Saudi Arabian western coast to secure the three US carriers in the Gulf from the rear as well as the Gulf of Aqaba and Suez Canal.