By DoD News
By Terri Moon Cronk
While the 30-day extension of the USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier strike group’s presence in the Arabian Gulf is critical to the campaign to counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, it also provides a broader maritime security in what also is known as the Persian Gulf, the chief of naval operations said today.
Navy Adm. John M. Richardson told reporters at the Pentagon that the continued presence of the Truman — which he said contributes 20 percent to 25 percent of total airpower there — is aligned with President Barack Obama’s acceleration of the campaign to defeat ISIL.
The Truman offers broad maritime security by lending greater stability to the region, in addition to its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance component and assurance to U.S. allies in the region, he said.
Navy officials said the Truman has wide-ranging and flexible mission capabilities, including maritime security operations, expeditionary power projection, forward naval presence, crisis response, sea control, deterrence, and counterterrorism capabilities. Its embarked air wing can project tactical air power over sea and inland, and provide sea-based air, surface and subsurface defense, they added.
‘Not Just About Sorties’
Richardson said the Truman’s extended presence in the Gulf should not be viewed only in terms of sorties, noting that the strike group and all of its assigned forces are playing a critical role, “not only in that particular fight, but in terms of the broader maritime security in the Gulf.”
“We’re very … respectful and grateful to the sacrifices being made — not only by the [Truman’s] sailors, but also by their families back home,” the admiral said, adding that family members are supportive of the 30-day extension and realize the importance of the mission and the contributions their sailors are making.
Hong Kong Denies Stennis Entry
In the wake of China’s denial of a port stop in Hong Kong by the USS John C. Stennis last week, Richardson emphasized that the Nimitz-class nuclear-powered supercarrier will have “other opportunities to come ashore.” The carrier will make other ports of call in its dual role to conduct operational and diplomatic mission, he noted.
“Those port calls are a tremendous contribution to the diplomatic mission, so we’ll look for another way to execute [it],” Richardson said.
U.S.-India Maritime Cooperation Grows
With China’s military maritime presence in the Indian Ocean, Richardson emphasized that the United States and India have a growing close relationship that has “a nice maritime dimension.”
The chief of naval operations said his trip to India for the annual International Fleet Review in February comprised 50 nations’ heads of naval forces and created a “growing awareness of a changing dynamic.”
“You could sense there are a lot of emerging partnerships in the region as things continue to change there,” he said.
South China Sea Advocacy
Because about 30 percent of the world’s trade passes through the South China Sea and the region, Richardson noted the importance of advocating for freedom of navigation and international rules that allow nations to continue movement freely.
“We’ll continue to work with other partners in region, including China, to continue advocating for [travel],” he said.
While passage through the South China Sea presents some complications, “as has been said many times, we’ll continue to fly, operate and sail wherever international law allows,” Richardson said.