The Carrier Gap Starts Now

Last week, the USS Theodore Roosevelt left the Persian Gulf, headed for exercises and then home. The USS Harry Truman won’t arrive in the Persian Gulf until winter. Although the US Navy has a presence in the Gulf, that presence doesn’t include carriers.

The Department of Defense has already stated that they will continue to fly missions in Syria, Afghanistan and other trouble spots, using Air Force planes based at airfields within allied countries to take up the slack. Navy jets account for 20% of sorties being flown against ISIS.  Of course, that plan has troubles of its own.

“The biggest value to those carriers is that they are huge, and you have the capability to go from one stop to another, and we don’t need a permission slip from another nation when we want to fly planes,” said retired Vice Admiral Peter Daly, CEO of the U.S. Naval Institute, to NBC news.

Recent events have raised the volatility of the area. The signing of the Nuclear Agreement with Iran was seen in advance, but the confirmed test launch of a nuclear capable missile with a range of 1,000 miles was not. Even though the launch violated the UN’s ban on ballistic missile tests, the condemnation for the test has not stopped, and most likely won’t stop, Iran from becoming a more active player in destabilizing the Middle East.

USS Theodore RooseveltRussian warships, supporting the intervention in Syria, are also making their presence felt in the Gulf. After peremptorily telling the US armed forces that they would be attacking targets that support the ouster of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, the Russians are throwing their military weight around.

Granted, the Russian navy’s one aircraft carrier is not all that much of a threat, but launching cruise missiles into Syrian territory from the Black Sea illustrates that Russia wants to expand its influence and impress the local governments with their capabilities.

Believing that these actions are not related to America temporarily weakening its forces in the area is short-sighted. Aircraft carrier movements are not a secret, nor is the fact that heavy deployment during the 2010 to 2013 period caused a critical gap in maintenance and training for the crews.

The entry of the Gerald Ford to the fleet will help, but it has been justifiably delayed over concerns with the under-tested technology onboard. Once the Ford finishes its trials and can be deployed, the burden will ease on the remainder of the fleet – until the next crisis causes a heavier deployment schedule for the carriers. Then we are back to square one.

The number of carriers that belong in the fleet is a hotly debated issue in the government. These mammoth warships are expensive to build, deploy and maintain, but they are our first line of defense and the ultimate display of modern power projection.

As tensions ramp up, the US Navy pulls the Roosevelt out and sends it on its way. The power vacuum created will last for about two months and it will be interesting to see what provocations will be coming next. It’s a given that they will, the only question is will it be the usual suspects or will another country or group decide that American absence is all the excuse they need to try to influence events in the region.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

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Matt Towns

Matt is a former military journalist who spent 10 years in the US Navy. He served in various posts during his career, including a couple of deployments on the USS Valley Forge (CG-50). After leaving the Navy, he worked in management for a number of years before opening his own businesses. He ran those businesses until 2012 when he chose to leave the retail industry and return to writing. Matt currently works as a freelance writer, contributing to the US Patriot blog and other websites about political affairs, military activities and sailing.
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