SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — The U.S. Navy plans to bolster mine warfare forces in the Persian Gulf as tensions rise with Iran over its nuclear program and threats to block the Strait of Hormuz, according to Senate testimony earlier this week.

Four additional mine countermeasure ships are being dispatched to the region in addition to further airborne mine countermeasure helicopters, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert told the Senate Armed Services Committee during a Navy budget hearing Thursday.

The additional units will be based in Bahrain, home to the Navy’s Fifth Fleet.

“I came to the conclusion we could do better setting the theater,” Greenert told the committee while recounting a recent trip through the waterway on the USS John C. Stennis, which was under the watchful eye of Iranian naval vessels. “I wanted to be sure … that we are ready, that our folks are proficient, they’re confident, and they’re good at what they do in case called upon.”

In addition to bulking up U.S. Navy forces, Greenert called for upgrades to submarine torpedoes, mine neutralization vehicles, optics and weaponry to counter swarm tactics Iran might employ should a conflict break out.

Iranian officials have threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, a key transportation route for almost 20 percent of oil traded worldwide according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in response to Western sanctions over its nuclear program. The U.S. and Israel have said a nuclear Iran is not acceptable and have not ruled out military action.

The four mine ships heading to Bahrain will come from San Diego, Navy officials said. No timetable for the move was released.

From staff reports

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