A media report says the U.S. military plans to send a floating base for commando teams to the Middle East, where relations with Iran are tense and other nations are in the midst of political upheaval.
The Washington Post newspaper on Saturday cited unspecified U.S. Navy documents saying the service plans to convert an aging warship into a staging base for the commandos, calling it a “mothership.”
A Navy spokesman declined to provide details on the plans or to say where in the Middle East the mothership would be deployed. The report says documents indicate the vessel could be positioned in the Persian Gulf, where Iran has threatened to block the critical oil-shipping lanes in the Strait of Hormuz.
Other Navy officials told the Post that the Pentagon hopes to complete the conversion and send the ship to the region later this year.
The newspaper report says the base is expected to accommodate smaller high-speed boats and helicopters often used by Navy SEALS for special operations.
On Thursday U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced plans for Pentagon budget cuts that would reduce ground forces and depend more on Special Forces operations in upcoming years. The plan also involves shifting focus from Europe to the Middle East and Asia Pacific regions.