The aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford and its strike group will remain deployed in the Mediterranean longer than expected as the war between Israel and Palestinian militant group Hamas ramps up and the Pentagon takes steps to prevent a broader conflict in the region.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin approved the extension for the Ford and its carrier strike group’s deployment, the Pentagon announced Tuesday.
Ford kicked off on its first full deployment in May to the waters of U.S. European Command, where it initially steamed in western portions of the Mediterranean Sea to deter Russia and work with allies.
The Ford CSG arrived in the eastern Mediterranean on Oct. 10, after Austin directed the carrier to head to the region following the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas, and Israel’s retaliatory strikes.
The carrier and its support ships were scheduled to start returning home in the near future, and it remains unclear how long the Ford CSG will remain on station off the coast of Israel and the Gaza Strip.
Meanwhile, the aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower and its strike group are also heading to the region, meaning that there will soon be an armada of two U.S. carrier strike groups in the eastern Mediterranean.
While Ike was scheduled to deploy before the Hamas attack, the Pentagon said the strike group would work to “deter hostile actions against Israel or any efforts toward widening this war.”
The news came as the Pentagon Deputy Press Secretary Sabrina Singh also confirmed approximately 2,000 personnel are ready to deploy to bolster the “DoD’s ability to respond quickly to the evolving security environment in the Middle East.”
However, Singh said Austin has yet to decide if the forces will deploy or not as he continues to assess force posture. Already, the United States has shifted multiple assets in response to the conflict, which has killed at least 30 Americans.
The Ford’s strike group includes eight squadrons of attack and support aircraft under Carrier Air Wing 8, the destroyers Thomas Hudner, Ramage, Carney and Roosevelt, as well as the cruiser Normandy.
Accompanying Ike are Carrier Air Wing 3, the cruiser Philippine Sea and the destroyers Gravely and Mason.
Additional assets sent to increase U.S. presence in the region include Air Force F-15s, F-16s and A-10 fighter aircraft.
“The increases to U.S. force Posture signal the United States’ ironclad commitment to Israel’s security and our resolve to deter any state or non-state actor seeking to escalate this war,” Austin said in a statement Saturday.