The US Navy has deployed two of its most powerful aircraft carriers to the Eastern Mediterranean, in a show of solidarity with Israel and a deterrence against Hamas. The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and the USS Gerald R. Ford are both nuclear-powered and carry dozens of fighter jets and helicopters, as well as thousands of sailors and marines.
Why did the US send the carriers?
The US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced on October 14 that the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group (CSG) has been directed to move to the region, following the surprise attack by Hamas on Israel on October 7, which killed more than 1,400 Israelis. The statement said that the move was part of the US effort to “deter hostile actions against Israel or any efforts toward widening this war following Hamas’s attack on Israel”.
The USS Gerald R. Ford CSG, which is the US Navy’s newest and most advanced aircraft carrier, had already arrived in the region earlier this week. The two carriers will join forces with other US naval assets, such as destroyers, cruisers, submarines, and amphibious ships, to provide a formidable presence in the Mediterranean.
The US has also expressed its support for Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorism, and has called for a peaceful resolution of the conflict. The US has been working with its allies and partners, such as Egypt, Qatar, and Jordan, to facilitate a ceasefire and humanitarian aid to Gaza.
What is the situation in Gaza and Israel?
The conflict between Israel and Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza, has escalated since October 7, when Hamas launched a massive barrage of rockets and missiles at southern Israel, killing more than 1,400 people and injuring thousands more. It was the worst terror attack in Israel’s history, and triggered a swift and fierce response from the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).
Since then, Israel has been conducting air strikes and artillery shelling on Gaza, targeting Hamas’s military infrastructure, weapons caches, tunnels, and leaders. Israel has also deployed tens of thousands of troops, tanks, and artillery on the edge of Gaza, preparing for a possible ground invasion. Israel has said that its goal is to restore deterrence and security for its citizens, and to degrade Hamas’s capabilities.
According to health authorities in Gaza, at least 2,215 Palestinians have been killed and 8,714 wounded due to the Israeli attacks. Many of them are civilians, including children and women. The UN has said that more than half a million people in Gaza have been displaced or affected by the violence, and that the humanitarian situation is dire. Gaza’s infrastructure, such as electricity, water, sanitation, health care, and education, has been severely damaged or destroyed.
The UN has also condemned the horrific crimes committed by Hamas, such as the deliberate and widespread killing and hostage-taking of innocent civilians in Israel. The UN has said that these actions constitute heinous violations of international law and international crimes, for which there must be urgent accountability.
How powerful are the US aircraft carriers?
The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) is one of the US Navy’s 11 Nimitz-class aircraft carriers. It was commissioned in 1977 and named after the 34th president of the US. It is 333 meters long and can carry up to 90 aircraft, including F/A-18 Super Hornet fighters, E-2 Hawkeye early warning aircraft, EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft, MH-60 Seahawk helicopters, and C-2 Greyhound transport aircraft. It has a crew of about 5,000 sailors and marines.
The USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) is the first of the US Navy’s new Ford-class aircraft carriers. It was commissioned in 2017 and named after the 38th president of the US. It is 337 meters long and can carry up to 75 aircraft, including F/A-18 Super Hornet fighters, E-2D Advanced Hawkeye early warning aircraft, EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft, MH-60 Seahawk helicopters, CMV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft, and F-35C Lightning II stealth fighters. It has a crew of about 4,500 sailors and marines.
Both carriers are powered by nuclear reactors that can propel them at speeds of over 30 knots (56 km/h). They are also equipped with advanced sensors, communications systems, weapons systems (such as surface-to-air missiles), self-defense systems (such as Phalanx close-in weapon systems), countermeasures (such as decoys), and damage control systems.
The carriers are the flagships of their respective strike groups (CSGs), which consist of several escort ships that provide air defense, anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, and ballistic missile defense capabilities. The CSGs also include one or more submarines that provide stealthy reconnaissance, surveillance, and strike capabilities.
The carriers and their strike groups are capable of conducting a wide range of missions, such as maritime security operations, expeditionary power projection, forward naval presence, crisis response, sea control, deterrence, counter-terrorism, humanitarian assistance, and disaster relief.
What is the impact of the US deployment?
The US deployment of two aircraft carriers to the Eastern Mediterranean is a significant demonstration of its military might and its commitment to Israel’s security. It is also a clear message to Hamas and its allies, such as Iran and Syria, that the US will not tolerate any further aggression or escalation of the conflict.
The US carriers could provide air support to Israel in case of a ground invasion of Gaza, or conduct strikes on Hamas targets in Gaza or elsewhere. They could also deter any potential attacks by other actors in the region, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon or Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and Syria. They could also provide humanitarian aid and evacuation to civilians in need.
However, the US deployment could also increase the risk of miscalculation or confrontation with other naval forces in the region, such as Russia or Turkey, which have their own interests and agendas in the Middle East. The US and Russia have already had several incidents of close encounters and unsafe maneuvers between their warships and aircraft in the Mediterranean. The US and Turkey have also had tensions over issues such as Syria, Libya, Cyprus, and the S-400 missile system.
Therefore, the US will have to balance its support for Israel with its diplomatic efforts to de-escalate the situation and prevent a wider regional war. The US will also have to coordinate with its NATO allies and partners, such as France, Italy, Germany, Canada, and the UK, which have also expressed their concern over the conflict and called for a ceasefire and a political solution.