WASHINGTON (AP) — Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said today he has ordered the Norfolk-based Ford carrier strike group to sail to the Eastern Mediterranean to be ready to assist Israel after the surprise attack by Hamas that has left more than 1,000 dead and thousands wounded on both sides.
The Norfolk, Virginia-based carrier strike group was already in the Mediterranean. Last week it was conducting naval exercises with Italy in the Ionian Sea. It’s the United States newest and most advanced aircraft carrier and this is its first full deployment.
The USS Gerald R. Ford and its approximately 5,000 sailors and deck of warplanes will be accompanied by cruisers and destroyers in a show of force that is meant to be ready to respond to anything, from possibly interdicting additional weapons from reaching Hamas and conducting surveillance.
The large deployment, which also includes a host of ships and warplanes, underscores the concern that the United States has in trying to deter the conflict from growing. The Israeli government formally declared war Sunday and gave the green light for “significant military steps” to retaliate against Hamas.