Airborne- and surface-based fleet air defense elements, such as F/A-18s and at least two guided-missile destroyers safeguarded the US Navy flattop during the exfiltration.
Released on Dec. 4, 2019, by the Iranian news agency the satellite imagery in this post shows the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) aircraft carrier “escorted” out of the Persian Gulf via the Strait of Hormuz by 20 Iranian fast inshore attack crafts.
According to T-Intelligence, airborne- and surface-based fleet air defense elements, such as F/A-18s and at least two guided-missile destroyers safeguarded the US Navy flattop during the exfiltration.
Noteworthy Abraham Lincoln only transited the Strait of Hormuz on Nov. 19 after nearly six months of staying in open waters due to intelligence concerning an imminent Iranian threat.
Carrier Air Wing Seven (CVW-7, which is comprised of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 25 “Fist of the Fleet,” VFA-86 “Sidewinders,” VFA-103 “Jolly Rogers,” VFA-143 “Pukin’ Dogs,” Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 121 “Bluetails,” Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 140 “Patriots,” Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 5 “Nightdippers,” and Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 79 “Griffins”) is attached to “Abe” and encompasses F/A-18E/F Super Hornet strike fighters and EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft. The guided-missile cruiser Leyte Gulf, and guided-missile destroyers Bainbridge, Mason and Nitze are assigned to the strike group.
This was the first Strait of Hormuz transit for the Nimitz-class USS Abraham Lincoln ever since it was hurried to the Middle East on May 5, 2019 in response to undisclosed intelligence warning of an imminent Iranian attack.
As previously reported, on Jun. 20, 2019 in a major provocation Iran shot down an unarmed and unmanned U.S. Navy MQ-4C Triton drone while it was flying in international airspace over the Strait of Hormuz.
In early May, the Pentagon rushed USS Abraham Lincoln and a B-52 bomber task force to the Middle East to deter possible attacks by Iran or Iranian-backed groups on U.S. forces and U.S. interests in the region.
Pentagon spokesman Charles Summers pointed “to indications of heightened Iranian readiness to conduct offensive operations against U.S forces and our interests.”
A claim confirmed by U.S. Navy Capt. Bill Urban, a Central Command spokesman, who said in a statement that “U.S. Central Command continues to track a number of credible threat streams emanating from the regime in Iran throughout the CENTCOM area of responsibility.”
The escalating tensions followed an April announcement by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of new sanctions against any country, including U.S. allies, that imports Iranian oil, the country’s top source of income. The White House also designated the Revolutionary Guards Corps as a foreign terrorist organization, part of a hardening stance toward Iran.
As a result of the Iranian threat, after decades of American aircraft carriers sailing through the Strait of Hormuz, the U.S. Navy made the decision to keep CVN-72 in open waters for security reasons. Satellite imagery showed the Lincoln loitering in a “tight operational box” in the North Arabian Sea, the Gulf of Oman and occasionally conducting port calls at Duqm, Oman for the past five months.
As T-Intelligence reports, the Iranian militaries regularly rehearse asymmetric tactics to trap and sink U.S. aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf in case of conflict. Aircraft carriers are particularly vulnerable when passing through the Strait of Hormuz, which is 30 km at its narrowest. The recent decision to forward deploy CVN-72 into the enclosed Gulf could indicate that the threat posed by Iran decreased to an acceptable level for transiting the strait.
USS Harry Truman (CVN-75) will take CVN-72’s place in the U.S. Navy Fifth Fleet and U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.