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U.S. Navy Brings Massive Military Power to the Gaza Area of Operations

U.S. Navy Brings Massive Military Power to the Gaza Area of Operations

Navy’s newest aircraft carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), is on station off the coast of Gaza with its entire Carrier Strike Group, including four strike-fighter aircraft squadrons, a guided missile cruiser, and four guided missile destroyers, among other military assets

We have been documenting events in Israel here at Legal Insurrection around the clock since Hamas starting slaughtering innocent Israeli citizens and citizens of other countries, including the United States. For me, the most gripping (and horrifying) updates have been Professor Jacobson’s posts about the atrocities at several Israeli towns, or Kibbutzim, in southern Israel:

Please read them, and the other updates the team here has posted. They are worthy of your attention.

Now, as the Legal Insurrection resident naval/military expert, I thought I would update you on the U.S. Navy and other military happenings in the area, so you have a clear picture of that going forward.

My Background

It so happens that I have a great deal of experience in this area, because in addition to my at-sea attack submarine tours, I served as the submarine liaison officer attached to the staff of Carrier Group Six from 1991 – 1993, and during that time I deployed to the eastern Mediterranean aboard USS Forrestal (CV-59). There, from May to December 1991, we conducted armed reconnaissance into northern Iraq in support of Operation Provide Comfort. If you recall, this was the effort to prevent Saddam Hussein from committing genocide against the Kurdish population in northern Iraq following the Persian Gulf War, and the operation was largely successful. Tactically, we spent over three months in an operating area west of Syria flying daily armed missions into northern Iraq with naval F-14 Tomcat and F-18 Hornet fighter jets and A-6 Intruder attack aircraft (bombers), among others. Though I was a submarine officer, I qualified for, and stood watch as, the Admiral’s Tactical Action Officer, supervising operations in the carrier group command center on Forrestal. It was quite the experience. Once things quieted down, we got to spend two port calls in Haifa, Israel, which was totally awesome.

Later, after my submarine command tour, from 2001 – 2003, I transferred, again as submarine liaison officer, to the Navy’s Sixth Fleet in Italy, which has responsibility for the entire Mediterranean, among other areas. During that time, specifically in March 2003, I embarked on the Sixth Fleet flagship, USS LaSalle (AGF-3), and we supervised two aircraft carriers, USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) and USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75), flying round-the-clock airstrikes into Iraq for the initial “shock and awe” phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom. We also had several Navy surface ships who fired Tomahawk cruise missiles into Iraq from the Mediterranean at that time.

Notably, I had qualified as one of the Admiral’s “Battle Watch Captains” prior to this, and was selected to stand the midwatch from midnight to 8 a.m. every day during Operation Iraqi Freedom, and therefore was on watch during the early morning shock and awe strike kickoff on March 21, 2003, which our carrier aircraft squadrons participated in. I remember standing in the Sixth Fleet command center aboard LaSalle, top secret strike order in one hand and the TV clicker in the other, watching Fox News as the bombs started exploding in Baghdad at the exact time-on-target called for in the strike order. It was an eye-opener, for sure.

The Big Picture

Anyway, to provide this update of the current scene, I start from the top down, with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s statement concerning Hamas’ attacks on Israel, because it reveals the force strategy big picture. From the October 8 DOD press release:

My thoughts continue to be with the people of Israel and the many families who have lost loved ones as a result of the abhorrent terrorist attack by Hamas. Today, in response to this Hamas attack on Israel, and following detailed discussions with President Biden, I have directed several steps to strengthen Department of Defense posture in the region to bolster regional deterrence efforts.

I have directed the movement of the USS Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group to the Eastern Mediterranean. This includes the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), 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 have also taken steps to augment U.S. Air Force F-35, F-15, F-16, and A-10 fighter aircraft squadrons in the region. The U.S. maintains ready forces globally to further reinforce this deterrence posture if required.

In addition, the United States government will be rapidly providing the Israel Defense Forces with additional equipment and resources, including munitions. The first security assistance will begin moving today and arriving in the coming days.

Strengthening our joint force posture, in addition to the materiel support that we will rapidly provide to Israel, underscores the United States’ ironclad support for the Israel Defense Forces and the Israeli people. My team and I will continue to be in close contact with our Israeli counterparts to ensure they have what they need to protect their citizens and defend themselves against these heinous terrorist attacks.

Naval Forces Near Gaza

USS Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group

USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78)

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:

Tactically, however, 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.

Carrier Air Wing Eight (CVW-8)

Carrier Air Wing Eight consists of four squadrons of F-18 Super Hornet fighter-attack aircraft, which are capable of air-to-air combat (fighter) missions and air-to-ground attack (bomber) missions. The four squadrons of tactical aircraft in Carrier Air Wing 8 are the “Ragin’ Bulls” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 37, the “Blacklions” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 213, the “Golden Warriors” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 87, and the “Tomcatters” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 31. The Air Wing also has other aircraft, including early warning (i.e. Navy AWACS) aircraft, dedicated electronic warfare aircraft (jammers), and multi-mission capable helicopters.

F/A-18 Super Hornet

The F/A-18 Super Hornet, used in all four squadrons aboard the Gerald Ford, is a very capable aircraft and can carry laser-guided precision bombs and various other land-target attack weapons.

Each of the four squadrons in Carrier Air Wing 8 will have over a dozen F/A-18 Super Hornets. Here is an F/A-18 Super Hornet taking off from USS Nimitz in the Pacific Ocean in June of this year. Notice the engines in afterburner for launch and the items carried under-wing, which might be bombs or extra fuel tanks for long-range missions or refueling other aircraft.

Here is a good, and short, video of two F/A-18s launching. Notice the little things the crew does to get the jets aloft safely, like walking the deck to ensure no foreign objects are present, checking 360 degrees before launch with all hands to make sure everything is safe, testing the aircraft’s control surfaces before launch, and ensuring the jet is in full afterburner for launch:

USS Normandy (CG-60)

USS Normandy is a Ticonderoga-class cruiser, and most notably employs two guided missile vertical launch stations capable of carrying  combined total of over 120 guided missiles. They also have two 5-inch guns that can be used for a variety of missions. The mission of the cruiser is usually air defense of the aircraft carrier, i.e. protecting the aircraft carrier which the cruiser is operating with from a long-range missile strike. It does this with a long-range flat-panel phased-array radar and long range anti-air missiles. It can also be used for ballistic missile defense and can attack land targets with Tomahawk missiles. What the vertical launch missile mix is depends on various factors and is known only to those with the need to know, but most likely the ship has a couple dozen Tomahawk land attack missiles onboard ready to go. Here is a 5-minute video of Normandy’s sister ship, USS Princeton (CG-59), showing the weapons and bridge. It’s pretty good:

Arleigh Burke Class Guided Missile Destroyers

These surface ships are really the workhorses of the Navy’s surface fleet, and like the Ticonderoga-class cruisers employ vertical launch missiles, but carry 90 missiles instead of 120+, and they have one 5-inch gun instead of two. The video below is probably more than you need to know, but it does have some really good detail on these ships (keep an eye out for the missile vertical launch systems, the helicopter landing pad, and other weapons systems):

One final point on the Ford Carrier Strike Group. When aircraft carriers are underway, especially while deployed, they fly every day, with rare exception, usually for 8 hours or more and often including night-time ops. The Ford deployed on May 2, 2023, they have been flying continuously for almost six months, which means that Carrier Air Wing 8 is at its absolute peak of flying and warfighting effectiveness.

Other Forces

Air Force

As Secretary Austin said in his statement, there are numerous U.S. Air Force assets, such as F-35, F-15, F-16, and A-10 fighter squadrons in the area, which are being augmented for possible action. The U.S. Air Force has bases at “RAF Lakenheath and RAF Mildenhall in the United Kingdom; Ramstein and Spangdahlem Air Bases in Germany; Aviano Air Base [in] Italy; Lajes Field in the Azores; and Incirlik Air Base [in] Turkey.” This makes it quite probable that more land strike assets, courtesy of the U.S. Air Force, could be brought to bear quickly, if needed.

Other Navy Assets

A report from Business Insider reveals that The US is thinking about sending another aircraft carrier into waters near Israel, possibly to back up the Ford strike group: reports:

After sending its newest and most advanced aircraft carrier and the accompanying warships in its strike group to the eastern Mediterranean in a show of strength and support for Israel amid its war with Hamas, the US is said to be considering sending a second aircraft carrier into the area.

The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and its escorts could join the USS Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group in waters near Israel in the coming weeks, US defense officials told The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday. ABC News also reported the discussions.

The Eisenhower is already set to head to the Middle East this week for a deployment that was planned months ago, but officials are now apparently debating whether the carrier should join the Ford or replace it. The Ford, which has been operating in the Mediterranean as part of its first full deployment, arrived in the eastern part of the waterway Tuesday.

“The arrival of these highly capable forces to 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, the commander of US Central Command.

Note: U.S. Central Command is based in Tampa, Florida, but Central Command’s Area of Responsibility covers the middle east, including Israel (although not the Mediterranean).

Two full carrier strike groups operating off of Gaza would be an enormous amount of firepower.

Special Forces

I have seen no news reporting of any activity of any special forces, but my completely uninformed (except for past experience) opinion is that the Navy Seals and the other special forces communities are probably working overtime to develop possible options for use in hostage rescue missions. The most recent reporting I have seen, from the New York Times, puts the number of missing Americans at twenty or more, in addition to the 14 confirmed dead in Hamas’ attack.


There is now a great deal of U.S. combat power in the vicinity of Gaza. My own opinion is that the Biden Administration should be doing everything it can to extract the U.S. hostages from Gaza, and the most difficult part (again, totally my opinion) will probably be getting actionable intelligence on where the U.S. hostages are located and who and what is defending against their rescue. We have the military means to extract them; the key is do we have the intelligence to support such a mission, and do we have the will to employ U.S. forces in Gaza in what would likely be a very risky mission, perhaps especially for the hostages themselves.

I also think that the administration should be doing everything it can to prevent people who have participated in the pro-Hamas love-fests around the U.S. from replicating what Hamas did in Israel here at home.


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The Gentle Grizzly | October 12, 2023 at 6:56 pm

“I also think that the administration should be doing everything it can to prevent people who have participated in the pro-Hamas love-fests around the U.S. from replicating what Hamas did in Israel here at home.”

I wonder how many anti-gun American Jews are re-thinking their position?

    Nathan Shiba in reply to The Gentle Grizzly. | October 12, 2023 at 7:49 pm

    I would hope that everyone – anti-gun American Jews and all – are 100% focused on what needs to be done to decimate Hamas.

    Have I cleaned my guns in the past week, you bet. But now I’m focused on defeating Hamas. If you’re interested, I support the Israeli forces at They could use our help.

    Being Gentle will only take you so far, Mr. Grizzly. As Roosevelt used to say, “Speak sofly and carry a concealed weapon.”

      Milhouse in reply to Peabody. | October 12, 2023 at 11:08 pm

      Actually not. The whole point of that maxim is to carry openly.

      The Gentle Grizzly in reply to Peabody. | October 13, 2023 at 10:43 am

      Being gentle does not mean being anyone’s doormat.

      I’m too old and sick to fight so my situational awareness is high.

      As for carrying: I’m having a hell of a time dinging a carry gin that fits big paws.

    Likely not many, but I bet a lot of anti-gun Israelis are.

      Milhouse in reply to txvet2. | October 12, 2023 at 11:12 pm

      I would like to think so, but I doubt it. Israelis in general don’t seem to get the concept of liberty; they think they do, but they are constantly betraying that they don’t. And that’s even on the right; on the left it’s much worse. Then, even once one has grasped the concept of inalienable rights in general, there’s another hurdle in grasping that being armed is one of those rights.

        Stuytown in reply to Milhouse. | October 13, 2023 at 9:50 am

        This week they relaxed requirements for gun ownership in Israel and there’s been a mad rush for them. Based on what I’m seeing, it seems like some of that comes from the left wing. But have no actual data.

There to make sure none of the terrorists are mis-gendered, no doubt.

A few snide comments from somebody who thinks they know more than they do (i.e. me). The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower is going to pair up with the Ford more for public affairs than real combat ability, because I don’t believe the current administration has a clue about what they want to do with the military in that theatre. They can’t drop bombs on their allies the Palestinians, because their base would riot, and they can’t drop bombs on Israel because… Well, maybe they are considering it, but I don’t think even they have that kind of intentional blindness and stupidity. The secondary reason for deploying the Eisenhower is redundancy, since the Ford’s EMAL catapults have been questionable, and if they are down, there are no aircraft flying cover and the press would notice.

And now a somewhat sobering message from an observer and his own personal tinfoil hat, both cautioning us to remember how expertly we were emotionally stampeded into self-defeating, rights-damaging jingoism by the atrocities of 9/11…

    Better to have people cautioning against rash action. I won’t pretend to know how to remedy the Muslim/Jewish problem since I’ve no idea how to fix the Christian/Muslim problem.

    I’m one of those people wanting lots of heads on lots of pikes on September 12th. My only regret being I was too old to enlist. So, F that guy and his simp opinion. Mr. 20/20 hindsight gots it all figgured out. That reasoning leads to Bush and Co. okaying the whole affair. I just don’t believe it happened like that.

    Back to the rifleman piece – at the bottom of the cautionary article there’s a meme about “rigging your AO for the coming storm,” which always gets my hackles up.

    First, because posting that sort of thing online is seriously incautious. Internet data is scraped hourly for exactly that sort of thing.

      jagibbons in reply to Tiki. | October 13, 2023 at 11:31 am

      There is no fixing of either of those problems. Islam is fundamentally opposed to Judaism and Christianity. They cannot coexist. They can only tolerate one another until tensions rise above the surface.

      Each religion claims their version God is right. Since each version is quite different when you dig into the details, they cannot all be right. In monotheism, there is right and wrong. If one of those religions is right, the others are, by necessity and definition, wrong.

      This was always going to happen, as it has been happening for two thousand years in one form or another.

Might as well be a collection of water sculptures out there.

AF_Chief_Master_Sgt | October 12, 2023 at 8:15 pm

Let’s see what the paper tiger in the White House does with his road show. After all, Hamas pretty much accomplished more before Grandpa bad finger got out of bed.

Hillary Clinton’s “3 am call” was a bit prescient, but not used in todays context. She meant if for B Hussein Obama, but it needed to be applied to his protege. You know, the guy who FS up everything he touches.

I hope I am wrong.

What about the Russian navy at Tarsus and Novorossiysk? They’re jumpy as hell due to the Ukrainians and their autonomous surface boats ramming Russian flagged ships in the Black Sea – and now a carrier strike force steam into eastern Mediterranean. And possibly another carrier group?

Russian Navy’s Cruiser Moskva Has Sunk In The Black Sea 2022:

I happen to be one of the people saying Russia will never light off a nuke in Ukraine or western or eastern Europe. But, the nervous Nelly’s? They gotta be wetting themselves just about now.

How many minutes does it take a supersonic warplane to fly from a location 100 miles off the coast of Gaza to Russia’s Tarsus navy base?

No way Russia would meddle with Finland and Estonia, they’ve been pals since never.


During the weekend on October 8, the Finnish-Estonian gas pipeline Baltic Connector suffered an unusual drop in pressure. The Baltic Connector is an undersea pipeline which crosses the Gulf of Finland between Ingå in Finland and Paldiski in Estonia, connecting the gas grids of the two countries. This led to the pipeline shutting down, and the authorities on both sides of the Gulf started investigating the pipeline to find the leak. By the morning on October 10 damage was located in the Finnish Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), close to the middle of the Gulf of Finland. In addition, a telecommunication cable running in the same general area was cut at an as of yet unspecified location.

26th MEU(SOC), embarked in Bataan and Carter Hall, also appears to be on the way from the Persian Gulf.

With regards to hostages, I assume the American hostages are Jewish and that is how the Hamas-Nazis view them. I doubt they are checking passports and separating out Americans.

Second, the Israelis are right there. Americans would have to come in on the ground with the Israelis; the Hamas-Nazis would easily spot choppers or small boats coming in.

I think this is just better left to the Israelis. These days, the US military leadership seems more concerned about proper pronouns, anyway.

Our ships are there, so start bombs falling like rain until Hamas is eradicated

When Fiji gets their citizens out while the US is still dithering you know all the senior leadership in the State Department needs to be fired but, then again, we still have people in Afghanistan a few years after Brandon’s surrender. On fact, many of the weapons he left behind are being waved around by the Hamas Terrorists

    Gosport in reply to diver64. | October 13, 2023 at 6:05 pm

    The first flight to get American citizens safely out of Israel has departed, according to the White House.

    DeSantis signed an executive order yesterday to ” bring Floridians home and transport necessary supplies to Israel.”

    Slow, but getting done.

Doesn’t mean beans since:
1. Biden Adminstration won’t freeze Iranian assets
2. They haven’t fired a shot or commited troops
3. Biden Administration is known for bluffing and being weak in the ME