Wasp, Enterprise, Kearsarge now on duty in Persian Gulf

Originally at: http://www.estripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=57023&archive=true

MANAMA, Bahrain — The departure of the USS Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group from the Persian Gulf earlier this month leaves an aircraft carrier and a pair of amphibious assault ships and their strike groups in the region.

More than 20 U.S. ships are in the Middle East region with the job of maritime security, supporting troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan and security cooperation missions.

The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise arrived in the Navy’s 5th Fleet’s area of operations in August to take over for the USS Nimitz and USS John S. Stennis carrier groups.

The Nimitz and Stennis had operated off the coast of Iran, performing exercises in a show of force.

The San Diego-based Bonhomme Richard and its group spent four months in the gulf before announcing last week that it left 5th Fleet operations.

The 5th Fleet, which is based in the island nation of Bahrain, covers area that is 2.5 million square miles and includes the Red Sea, Persian Gulf, Gulf of Oman and parts of the Indian Ocean.

The amphibious assault ships now deployed to the gulf include the USS Kearsarge and the USS Wasp.

The Kearsarge and the six other Norfolk, Va.-based ships that make up its strike group dropped off eight pallets of humanitarian supplies in Djibouti in late August before conducting patrols in the gulf as part of an Australian-led task force, according to Kearsarge spokesman Lt. James Hoeft.

AV-8B Harriers have been flying missions from the Kearsarge into Iraq several times a day since the group entered the gulf in mid-September, Hoeft added in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes.

The 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit also is aboard the ship.

“We don’t discuss future operations, however, we are prepared and ready to answer any call,” Hoeft wrote.

Last Tuesday, a Navy helicopter and the missile-guided destroyer USS Arleigh Burke, both part of the Enterprise Carrier Strike Group, came to the rescue of an Iranian dhow in the central Persian Gulf, according to a Navy news release.

The dhow’s crew flagged down the helicopter, which notified the Arleigh Burke about the distress call.

The Iranian Coast Guard was later notified and picked up the crew, the Navy said.

The Norfolk-based Wasp is operating off the coast of Djibouti after transporting the first tilt-rotor V-22 Osprey squadron to the Red Sea.

Ten Ospreys, which can take off and land like a helicopter and fly like a plane, flew from the Wasp through Jordan to western Iraq earlier this month.

The controversial aircraft, plagued by fatal accidents during its development, is making its first deployment to a combat zone.



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