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U.S. Military Power Expands in Gaza Area of Operations – An Update

U.S. Military Power Expands in Gaza Area of Operations – An Update

The USS Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group and over 2,000 U.S. Marines are heading to the Gaza area of operations to join the USS Gerald Ford Carrier Strike Group – that is a lot of U.S. naval combat power in one place at one time

On Thursday we reported that the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) Carrier Strike Group (CSG) had been positioned off the coast of Gaza: U.S. Navy Brings Massive Military Power to the Gaza Area of Operations:

USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) is the Navy’s newest aircraft carrier, and is the first to employ an electromagnetic, rather than steam powered, aircraft catapult launching system. Here is a very brief video of the Gerald Ford:

We also explained that “the strength of the aircraft carrier is not its launching system nor its own self-defense weapons systems, of which there are several, but the carrier’s air wing.”

We went on to explain the purpose and functioning of the FA-18 Super Hornet fighter/attack (bomber) aircraft used by the air wings tactical squadrons, and explained the tactical impact of the Ford CSG’s attached surface ships, “the Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG 60), as well as the Arleigh-Burke-class guided missile destroyers USS Thomas Hudner (DDG 116), USS Ramage (DDG 61), USS Carney (DDG 64), and USS Roosevelt (DDG 80).”

We also reported on the U.S. Air Force F-35, F-15, F-16, and A-10 fighter aircraft squadrons in the region, which were in the process of being “augmented,” the possibility that the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) Carrier Strike Group, which was on the verge of a regularly scheduled deployment, might proceed to the Gaza area of operations, and we noted that there had been no reporting on any special forces activity.

There have been some changes. Hence this update:

First, the Eisenhower CSG deployed from Norfolk, Virginia on Saturday:

By Carrier Strike Group 2 Public Affairs
14 October 2023

NORFOLK, Va. – Aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) (IKE), departed on a scheduled deployment, Oct. 14.

The strike group is scheduled to deploy to the U.S. European Command area of responsibility where it will engage with allies and partners in support of maritime statecraft, which encompasses naval diplomacy and national efforts to build comprehensive U.S. and allied maritime power.

“Each entity that comprises IKECSG has worked exceptionally hard over the last several months, and we are ready to bring maritime power in support of any tasking,” said Rear Adm. Marc Miguez, commander, Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 2, IKECSG. “Our presence will undoubtedly strengthen relationships with our allies and partners, as we share the goal to deter aggression, and if required, deliver overwhelming combat power.”

The flagship Dwight D. Eisenhower will join guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea (CG 58) and guided-missile destroyer USS Gravely (DDG 107), who departed Naval Station Norfolk, and guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87), who departed Naval Station Mayport, Oct. 13.

Translation for civilians: This was a regularly scheduled deployment that would have involved training exercises with NATO allies and post visits mainly in the Mediterranean area.

But wait! Later Saturday afternoon Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin released the following statement:

Statement from Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III on Deployment of USS Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group to the Eastern Mediterranean
Oct. 14, 2023

I have directed the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group (CSG) to begin moving to the Eastern Mediterranean. As part of our effort to deter hostile actions against Israel or any efforts toward widening this war following Hamas’s attack on Israel, the Strike Group includes the guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea (CG 58), guided-missile destroyers USS Gravely (DDG 107) and USS Mason (DDG 87), and Carrier Air Wing 3, with nine aircraft squadrons, and embarked headquarters staffs.

The Eisenhower CSG will join the USS Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group, which arrived earlier this week. The Ford CSG includes the USS Normandy, USS Thomas Hudner, USS Ramage, USS Carney, and USS Roosevelt. Earlier in the week, the U.S. Air Force announced deployment to the region of squadrons of F-15, F-16 and A-10 fighter aircraft.

The increases to U.S. force posture signal the United States’ ironclad commitment to Israel’s security and our resolve to deter any state or non-state actor seeking to escalate this war.

SECDEF is also contemplating sending an Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) from the Persian Gulf to the Gaza area. From Haaretz Israel News:

Beyond the two deployed strike groups, CNN reported the Pentagon is also considering the deployment of the USS Bataan amphibious assault ship closer to Israel to provide additional support if needed. The ship in question is composed of more than 2,000 marines and sailors capable of supporting a large-scale evacuation – including the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, a rapid-reaction force capable of conducting special operations including evacuation operations and humanitarian assistance.

Admiral James Stavridis, legendary in U.S. Navy circles for his many in-depth thought pieces on naval strategy and tactics over the years, now retired and dean emeritus of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, has the following take on the possibility of the use of Marines in this scenario:

The administration will want more than the direct combat power of the USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier strike group. That may explain why the warships and Marines were ordered to cut short a training exercise that was scheduled to run through Oct. 22 due to what the Pentagon called “emerging events.”

USS Bataan, at 40,000 tons and over 800 feet in length, is a smaller version of a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. With conventional propulsion, she has a powerful airwing that typically includes six F-35 strike fighters (with vertical takeoff capability), alongside a dozen of the assault support tiltrotor MV-22 Ospreys to get Marines rapidly ashore in a crisis.

The ship also has very capable missile defense systems, surveillance radars and a crew of over 1,200 sailors. There is a complete medical and surgical operating facility, along with space to embark nearly 2,000 Marines. I’ve commanded these ships as both a NATO commander and earlier at US Southern Command, where we used them for medical diplomacy throughout Latin America and the Caribbean – but their real purpose is to support Marines in combat.

USS Carter Hall, also part of the amphibious group, is somewhat smaller at 16,000 tons and 600 feet in length, but she carriers a powerful punch of amphibious assault vehicles and landing craft. The third ship in the group, USS Mesa Verde, is a newer and larger version of Carter Hall, sized at roughly 25,000 tons.

In addition to the attack aircraft on the ships, the real offensive punch of the force is the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit with more than 2,000 Marines. The MEU is configured for special operations, including a significant element of the vaunted Marine special operators, whose training resembles that of the Navy SEALs or the Army Green Berets.

Overall, the MEU has over 2,000 combat-trained Marines organized into an infantry battalion, an airwing to transport them, and embedded logistics support – everything from water purification systems to big tactical trucks and fast Humvees.

With a couple of thousand Marines nearby at sea, the President’s options will include securing airports for military and chartered commercial evacuation of Americans; guarding concentration points to collect citizens preparing to evacuate; securing coastal bases if air evacuation becomes too dangerous; and providing emergency medical support.

Admiral Stavridis then gets, in my view, to one of the key points:

Above all, the special operations elements of the 26th MEU could be part of finding, fixing, and rescuing American hostages. This would obviously be done in complete coordination with Israeli special forces, and with a recognition that such operations are inherently dangerous and very often end with tragic outcomes for innocent hostages. It would most likely include US tier-one special forces, the elite SEALs and Green Berets operating globally out of Fort Liberty, North Carolina.

This all sounds like the culmination of a Tom Clancy novel, and all of this will be controversial in terms of potentially having actual US boots on the ground and fighter jets and helicopters in the skies above the fight in Gaza. But the highest obligation of a President is to protect American lives, and if events spiral into an even higher level of violence in Israel, the presence of US Marines gives the administration more and better options to respond. Send in the Marines.

Apparently, however, at least for now, there is no intent to send in the Marines:

From Israel Doesn’t Want US Troops on the Ground as It Wages War, White House Says

The White House said Thursday that U.S. military combat support in Israel is for now firmly off the table, drawing a bright line as the bloody war with Hamas continues to develop and the USS Gerald Ford carrier strike group remains in the region.

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters that “the Israelis have made it very clear that they don’t want foreign troops on their soil — that they want to prosecute these operations on their own … and they have every right to want to do that.”

As a result, “there are no intentions, no plans to put American troops on the ground in combat,” Kirby said.

The statement by the White House on Thursday seemed to scuttle — at least for now — the idea of using U.S. special operations forces to rescue hostages being held by Hamas, including what lawmakers on Capitol Hill earlier this week described as “dozens” of Americans.

But, there are U.S. special forces in Israel even as we speak:

Questions around the possibility of American troops engaging in combat arose again after a Pentagon official confirmed late Tuesday evening that U.S. special operations personnel were at the U.S. Embassy in Israel as part of an existing agreement and had offered to help with hostage recovery efforts.

The senior defense official said the Pentagon’s advice and consultations to the Israel Defense Forces on hostage rescue efforts were “a high priority” for both.

And, very recent reporting suggests the Bataan and its marines are heading towards Gaza:

Air Force “augmenting” forces have started arriving in the area as well:

The augmented A-10 fighter squadrons additionally arrived in the Middle East in recent days, as did the F-15 and F-16 squadrons. [The U.S.] previously announced it was augmenting the F-35 squadron, as well.

“Additional A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft arrived Thursday,” reported.

And munitions and other supporting pieces from the U.S. to Israel have started arriving:

The U.S. has additionally already delivered Iron Dome interceptors, some of which have come out of the U.S. stockpile in Israel but with more to come.

[I]n addition [the U.S. is] “rapidly providing the Israel Defense Forces with additional equipment and resources, including munitions. The first security assistance will begin moving [Sunday, October 15, 2023] and arrive in the coming days.”

My previous post on this subject received several comments skeptical about whether the U.S. would or should use the forces it is assembling in the Gaza region: “Might as well be a collection of water sculptures out there” was one such comment.

But, I want Legal Insurrection’s loyal readers to know how their tax dollars are being spent, and I would also echo Admiral Stavridis’ sentiment that “the highest obligation of a President is to protect American lives.”

Additionally, keep in mind that the U.S. death toll in Israel is now at least 30 dead with 13 unaccounted for, and potentially “dozens” being held hostage by Hamas.

In conclusion, I refer our readers to retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Kurt Schlichter, who summarizes exactly where I stand on Hamas:

Here’s the bottom line…

1. Israel is right, Hamas is wrong. The plight of the Palestinians is due to their choices. They started this round. Anyone cheering on their murder spree deserves our contempt.

2. Hamas must be destroyed. If it refuses to surrender, the consequences to those around it are on it – as if these freaks care.

3. Israel is under no obligation not to destroy Hamas because it hides behind kids. Hamas does not get to veto the consequences by compounding its cowardice be cowering behind kids.

4. Israel should fight this war; we should provide non-boots aid. But remember – Hamas killed Americans. We are within our rights to wipe it out ourselves. That it is smarter to let Israel do it does not change anything. But we need to fix a situation where 7th Century savages feel they can kill Americans with impunity. The duty of protecting fellow Americans is not eliminated by invoking a “forever war” cliche.


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Israel HAS to deal with Hamas once and for all. The collateral damage from Hamas deliberately digging itself in to the civilian population sits solely on Hamas.

    MattMusson in reply to mailman. | October 17, 2023 at 9:47 am

    Reminiscent of taking Berlin in 1945. You had to do it to finish off the Nazis. But, the city was destroyed and a lot of civilians died.

    Peabody in reply to mailman. | October 17, 2023 at 10:11 am

    Time is of the essence. The longer they put it off the invasion, the less likely they will do it at all. No doubt Biden is going to tell them, Don’t!”

    There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
    A time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    A time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,
    A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    A time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
    A time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    A time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    A time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.

    Now is the time to destroy Hamas.

    Jaundiced Observer in reply to mailman. | October 18, 2023 at 11:50 am

    This is another example of the chickens coming home to roost.

    Israel helped fund Hamas to be a counter to secular Fatah. Divide and conquer at its finest.

    Mission accomplished!

TY James… this military force is mind boggling.. .. You mentioned missile defense systems and missile destroyers,,, I hope we have lots of them.. for obvious reasons.

I always appreciate Kurt Schlichter and his take on things. It seems a good bit of the world is lining up on the anti Israel side and doing so openly with plenty of media coverage. This may be the start of what gospel singers have expressed over the years: ‘It’s going by the Book’.

The memory of Afghanistan is still fresh in my mind. I can easily see Joe Biden and Anthony Blinken getting in the way.

    Ghostrider in reply to Whitewall. | October 17, 2023 at 8:18 am

    Exactly. Why would anyone or any group trust anything Biden, Blinken, or Austin say, think or espouse after how they handled the Afghanistan withdrawal? These three men are incredibly incompetent and are only politically motivated. They will use US foreign aid to Israel to pressure Netanyahu into stopping Israel’s military campaign so Joe looks like a hero.

Moving carrier groups into the theater is an old school military maneuver. Who is it actually deterring in the Mediterranean? Iran? Qatar? If that’s the case, a carrier group deployed to the Persian Gulf makes more sense to me.

    The old-school term for this is a “Fleet in Being” where a large fleet in port extended its influence over the surrounding area without even setting sail. That’s one of many reasons the British blasted the French fleet in WWII at Mers-el Kébir, because even just sitting there, the ships were a threat. In modern terms, we can put a carrier and surrounding battle group into an area as a sort-of mobile port defended far better than they would be in a physical port (See Pearl Harbor) and for months at a time. In short, any local or foreign military power in the area cannot operate with impunity as long as the carriers are squatting right there even if they do absolutely nothing but fly patrols and exist. In practical terms, that’s all they’re going to be permitted to do by the current administration.

But, I want Legal Insurrection’s loyal readers to know how their tax dollar are being spent, and I would also echo Admiral Stavridis’ sentiment that “the highest obligation of a President is to protect American lives.”

Additionally, keep in mind that the U.S. death toll in Israel is now at least 30 dead with 13 unaccounted for, and potentially “dozens” being held hostage by Hamas.

Were there any travel warnings from the feds before Hamas started their attacks? If so, no boots on the ground, period. All the aid in the world to Israel, they can handle this themselves, but I want us physically uninvolved in any foreign entanglements under this administration, run by a mental defect who has been wrong on foreign policy his entire life.

The purpose of these forces is to convince Syria and Iran not to escalate the war. However, they will regard American ships as a provocation (though one they probably already had a plan for.).

Beware of speed boats and drones filled with explosives. In the minds of the madmen attacking Israel, American ships are prime targets.

    txvet2 in reply to irv. | October 17, 2023 at 11:22 am

    Hence no deployment into the Persian Gulf. It would be like trying to swat a swarm of gnats, where you can’t afford to miss even one.

    I know it should and must be done, but it does irritate somewhat to deploy our forces in response to the death of a bunch of Americans who were, in essence, protesting against the US and Israeli military and in support of Hamas.

Hamas killed 30 Americans and took more hostage. What was Biden’s response? He said waited several days until he cleared it with his puppet masters, then said, “I have one word, ‘Don’t’.”

That’s the weakest thing I have ever head. You say “don’t” beforehand, not after. After they’ve done the deed you should say, “Release all Americans now, or you will pay!”

I doubt we will do anything. And now Biden is going to Israel to tell them not to do anything either.

And the ships we are sending won’t do anything unless a huge multi-nation war breaks out. Even then Biden, would be reluctant to let them do anything. And if they do, it would be to use minimum force with gloves on.

    stevewhitemd in reply to Peabody. | October 17, 2023 at 12:38 pm

    Yes. The response of our country now should be a simple one: “Release all American hostages, alive and unharmed, over the border to Egypt, or else we will ourselves extirpate you.”

    And then do it. We can coordinate and consult with Israel, obviously, but the response to Hamas killing, wounding, torturing, raping, and kidnapping our people is our responsibility.

    I appreciate Mr. Nault’s review of the force structure (that we can talk about). There is also an intel response which we should not discuss openly, and I would hope some intelligent diplomatic work being done. Military, intelligence, diplomacy all need to work together. That in turn requires vision, steadfastness, and intelligence at the White House. Whoever is running the shop there, I hope they understand what’s at stake.

Great read. For some reason Kirby reminds me of a timeshare salesman. What really irks me is the lack of outrage over all the murdered citizens of the United States of America. I mean, who are they? What are their names? Obviously the massacre of the Israelis is abominable but all the Americans killed and no national outrage? Seems to me a couple MOABs on the Hamas cockroaches tunnels would be righteous.

How many carrier groups were sent to the Mediterranean after the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing? Did we deploy a 2,000 man Marine rapid reaction amphibious force to the region? How many special forces teams were sent in to liberate hostages and innocent bystanders trapped by “quickly unfolding kinetic events.”

The attack killed 241 U.S. and 58 French military personnel and six innocent civilians.

Descriptions of military ships and warplanes and war matériel and American “force projection” all cocooned in milspeak doesn’t lend as much comfort as may be supposed.

They have wanted to retire the A10 for years yet they keep finding new roles for that flying tank.

Great read and agree with the Col!
Genuinely curious though how our military views the threat in Iranian drone use in this scenario, since as I’ve heard it, Iran makes more than any country in the world.
Drones probably couldn’t hurt the ships, but stationary planes on a deck would make a great target.

“Because this PLAN target development, follows our predictions outlined in Red lightning. That the mass production of DF21s DF26s and DF-41 armed with hypersonic glide weapons, would allow China to win WW3 in 2025 within 60 minutes. By sweeping the world’s ocean’s clear of all western warships and merchant ships, ending global democracy in one short, overwhelming strike.”

I wonder at the deployment of the A-10s. It’s essentially a flying tank, optimized for close-in ground attack to support infantry, if I understand its purpose correctly.

I wonder how the powers that be anticipate using them. Possibly to support the MEU if they should be called upon, but . . . any other use???

I do not consent for my tax dollars to be used in this way.

Subotai Bahadur | October 17, 2023 at 9:41 pm

It has been noted that Biden is there to “call for peace”. It is also true that Biden and the Left would love to destroy the State of Israel. Major American military power in the AO + an impending attack by Israel in retaliation for HAMAS massacres + a standard Leftist propaganda point that there is no justification for war = at least a possibility that our forces will be inserted between the IDF and HAMAS to protect HAMAS “in the name of preserving Peace”.

At which point Israel would have to start considering the Samson Option.

Subotai Bahadur