WASHINGTON — The aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush will remain in the Mediterranean Sea for several days longer than planned as part of a U.S. effort to reassure allies on edge over Russia’s troop incursion into Ukraine’s Crimean region.
The Bush arrived March 9 in Antalya, Turkey, for a preplanned stop on a mission to the Middle East. One ship in its carrier strike group, the USS Truxtun, an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, is in the Black Sea conducting exercises with regional allies.
The Bush will remain “for a few more days over what the original plan was,” said Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren. The Pentagon is not divulging when the Bush will continue on with its original mission, but said the departure would likely happen within the next several days.
There are two reasons for the extended stay, Warren said: “One is to conduct additional training opportunities, and frankly, because a lot of what we’re doing there now is an effort to reassure our allies.”
The Bush’s extended stopover is part of an overall U.S. effort that includes increased U.S. support of a NATO air policing mission in the Baltic region and an increased presence in Poland, he said.
Six F-16s that were ordered to Poland in the wake of Russia’s moves in Ukraine arrived there Thursday, and six more were to arrive Friday, Warren said. Also, a C-130 and a C-17 were scheduled to arrive with supplies and 150 more personnel on Friday.
The Bush Carrier Strike Group and its 6,000 sailors departed Norfolk, Va., last month on what is only the carrier’s second deployment. Four ships and eight aircraft squadrons are accompanying the Bush to the U.S. 6th Fleet and 5th Fleet areas of responsibility as part of the carrier strike group, according to a Navy release.