Navy's top officer visits Nimitz group in Gulf amid Iran tensions
By JOHN VANDIVER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: January 15, 2021
STUTTGART, Germany — The Navy’s top officer visited a warship in the Persian Gulf this week after ongoing tensions with Iran led the Pentagon to extend an aircraft carrier group’s deployment to the region.
Adm. Mike Gilday, chief of naval operations, met with members of the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group during his two-day visit and also held talks with officials in Bahrain, home to 5th Fleet headquarters.
“The work they do every day helps us provide security and stability and demonstrates a maritime combat prowess that gives any potential adversary pause,” Gilday said in a statement Thursday after meeting with sailors aboard the USS John Paul Jones, part of the Nimitz group.
Gilday’s visit to the region came two weeks after the Pentagon ordered the Nimitz group to stay in the Middle East, reversing an earlier decision to send the carrier home. Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller said this was due to threats issued by Iranian leaders against President Donald Trump and other U.S. government officials.
The Nimitz’s extended mission coincided with concerns that Iran could target the U.S. military in a revenge attack connected to the death of Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a U.S. airstrike last year in Iraq.
“I’ve spoken with Nimitz Strike Group leadership and they understand the mission, expectations and why they are needed in the region right now,” Gilday said.
In recent weeks, the U.S. has been flexing its muscles in the area. On Thursday, Iranian media posted footage that appeared to show a U.S. Navy submarine operating near the Strait of Hormuz, a strategic chokepoint for global oil supplies.
On Dec. 21, the Navy also announced a similar maneuver by the Ohio-class submarine USS Georgia, which transited the Strait of Hormuz with cruisers USS Port Royal and USS Philippine Sea. The USS Georgia carries up to 154 Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles and also can be used to carry special operations forces.
Iran’s navy also has been displaying its capabilities this week, testing short-range missiles in the Gulf of Oman as it showcased two new warships.