Aircraft carrier group heads to Persian Gulf

Aircraft carrier group heads to Persian Gulf

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The USS John C. Stennis transits the Pacific Ocean in the fall (Photo by MC3 Kenneth Abbate, US Navy)

WASHINGTON — A U.S. aircraft carrier group is en route to position itself in the Persian Gulf, a show of force coinciding with a ramp-up of tough White House talk toward Iran.

The carrier USS John C. Stennis and its support vessels should arrive in the waters by the end of this week, Pentagon officials confirmed Wednesday. They said the sailing was planned weeks ago.

The carrier replaces the USS Theodore Roosevelt, which left the region eight months ago. It will be an integral part of the increasing air campaign over Afghanistan, Pentagon officials said.

The USS Stennis and the ships with it arrived in Singapore for a port visit on November 24 and departed November 28, the Navy said. It was last reported in the Indian Ocean off Sri Lanka.

Over the weekend, Iran test-fired a medium-range ballistic missile capable of carrying multiple warheads and also deployed a stealth destroyer in the Strait of Hormuz, according to multiple news reports.

Iran has threatened to disrupt shipping if the U.S. effort to place sanctions on Tehran cuts into its oil exports and other economic activity.

The deployment of the USS Stennis was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, nominated to be the next head of U.S. Central Command, said even with shifting budgets the Pentagon can still respond and handle any threat from Iran in the Persian Gulf although it might take longer.

“It’s going to require the command to adopt innovative techniques to deter Iran because that’s the underpinning of everything else that will go on in the theater,” McKenzie told members of the Senate Armed Service Committee on Tuesday. “I am confident we can respond.”

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