The United States will have two aircraft carrier strike groups in the region: the USS Gerald R. Ford, which was already in the area and whose stay Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin extended, and the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group, which Austin instructed to move to the Eastern Mediterranean, though it’s still in transit. The U.S. Air Force also deployed squadrons of F-15, F-16, and A-10 fighter aircraft to the region.
The USS Gerald R. Ford consists of eight squadrons of attack and support aircraft, the Ticonderoga class guided missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG 60), and the Arleigh Burke class guided missile destroyers USS Thomas Hudner, USS Ramage, USS Carney, and USS Roosevelt. The Eisenhower strike group includes the guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea, guided-missile destroyers USS Gravely and USS Mason, and Carrier Air Wing Three, with nine aircraft squadrons.
Biden has said their presence in the region is supposed to deter other enemies of Israel from joining in the conflict and broadening its scope.
On Thursday, Houthi forces in Yemen, which are backed by Iran, launched three land-attack cruise missiles and several drones that the guided-missile destroyer USS Carney, which is a part of the Ford Carrier Strike Group, was able to shoot down from the Red Sea. The Department of Defense said the missiles and drones were heading north along the Red Sea in the direction of Israel.
“This action was a demonstration of the integrated air and missile defense architecture that we have built in the Middle East and that we are prepared to utilize whenever necessary to protect our partners and our interests in this important region,” Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder, Pentagon spokesman, said during Thursday’s briefing. “As the secretary has made clear, we have the capability to defend our broader interests in the region and to deter regional escalation, Israelis and broader expansion of the conflict that began with Hamas’s attack on Israeli civilians on Oct. 7. The crew of the Carney did just that.”
The Department of Defense has selected roughly 2,000 troops to prepare for a deployment, though the order to deploy has not come yet and may not.
“Secretary Austin placed approximately 2,000 personnel and a range of units on a heightened state of readiness through a prepare to deploy order, which increases DoD’s ability to respond quickly to the evolving security environment in the Middle East. No decisions have been made to deploy any forces at this time,” deputy Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh said in a statement on Tuesday. “The Secretary will continue to assess our force posture and remain in close contact with allies and partners.”
Israel has requested air defense support, precision-guided munitions, artillery, and medical supplies. The first shipment of military aid from the U.S. has already arrived.
“We’re surging additional military assistance, including ammunition and interceptors to replenish Iron Dome,” Biden said last week. “We’re going to make sure that Israel does not run out of these critical assets to defend its cities and its citizens.”
Biden’s White House on Friday sent a supplemental funding request to Congress that includes $16 billion for aid to Israel. It was included in a spending request that exceeds $100 billion, more than half of which would go to Ukraine. It will not be voted on immediately because the House is without a speaker and Republicans cannot come to an agreement on who should succeed ousted Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who was removed from the speakership on Oct. 3.