The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and its escorts could join the USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier strike group in waters near Israel in the coming weeks; US defense officials told the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday. ABC News also confirmed the discussions.
Eisenhower is already set to head to the Middle East, reportedly via the Mediterranean, this week for a deployment that was planned months ago. Still, officials are now debating whether the carrier should join or replace the Ford. The Ford, which has been operating in the Mediterranean as part of its first full deployment, arrived on Tuesday in the eastern part of the waterway.
“The arrival of these highly capable forces in the region is a strong signal of deterrence should any actor hostile to Israel consider trying to take advantage of this situation,” said Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla, commander of the US Central Command.
The US Department of Defense declined to comment to Insider on whether or not there were discussions about assigning Eisenhower a mission outside of its original deployment plans.
If Eisenhower joins the Ford, it will be the first time two aircraft carriers have been deployed to the area since March 2020, when rocket attacks targeting Camp Taji, an Iraqi military installation north of Baghdad, killed two US soldiers and a British soldier.
The Ford’s reassignment and reported considerations surrounding the Eisenhower speak to growing concerns about the unfolding crisis in Israel after surprise Hamas attacks on Saturday left more than 1,200 civilians dead and many more wounded. Israel responded by officially declaring war on Hamas and carrying out devastating airstrikes against Hamas targets inside the Gaza Strip. There are also expectations of an Israeli ground attack in the area very soon, which could wreak havoc in the densely populated area, where many people have already been killed or injured in retaliatory attacks.
In response to Hamas attacks, the United States pledged full support to Israel (generally the largest recipient of American military aid) and moved its newest and most advanced aircraft carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford, to waters near Israel. It was an unexpected change from the carrier’s first full deployment, which Ford spent primarily conducting exercises with partners and stops at friendly ports.
The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower is a Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier originally commissioned in 1977. Unlike the younger, first-in-class Ford, Eisenhower has seen action with deployments during the Gulf War in the 1990s and the subsequent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
If the United States were to position the Eisenhower near Israel, it would be a demonstration of its naval power in a hostile area, providing logistical and humanitarian support while disconcerting enemy forces.
“The presence of an aircraft carrier has often deterred potential adversaries from attacking U.S. interests,” the Navy says on its website. “Aircraft carriers support and operate aircraft that engage in strikes against airborne, afloat, and land-based targets that threaten the free use of the sea and engage in sustained power projection operations in support of U.S. and coalition forces.”
This is especially noteworthy in Israel right now, as fighting has broken out along the country’s border with Lebanon and Hezbollah (and an independent Iran-backed group that, like Hamas, is designated a terrorist organization by the US State Department) has been exchanging fire with Israeli forces. There has also been worrying rhetoric from Tehran.