Navy halts search for sailor missing in Arabian Sea
By CHAD GARLAND | Stars and Stripes | Published: July 20, 2019
MANAMA, Bahrain — A sailor who was reported overboard from a U.S. aircraft carrier in the Arabian Sea earlier this week remains missing after the Navy ended its search-and-rescue efforts, officials said Saturday.
After “extensive attempts to locate the Sailor” involving three ships and aircraft from two patrol squadrons, the search was concluded Friday, the Navy’s 5th Fleet said in a statement.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family, friends and shipmates of our lost Sailor,” Vice Adm. Jim Malloy, the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. 5th Fleet, and Combined Maritime Forces commander, said in a statement.
The service withheld the sailor’s identity, citing policy, but said the missing sailor was assigned to the Norfolk-based Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 5 aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln.
Next of kin had been notified that the sailor’s whereabouts remain unknown, 5th Fleet said.
The search began after a “man overboard” report on Wednesday. The Lincoln, the USS Leyte Gulf, and patrol squadrons VP-10 and VP-40 were joined by the Spanish Méndez Núñez frigate in searching the Arabian Sea area where the sailor had been reported missing, the statement said.
“During this tragic time, I want to thank the Spanish Álvaro de Bazán-class frigate Méndez Núñez for their assistance in the search operations, and all the Sailors involved in the search for their valiant efforts to find our shipmate,” Malloy said.
Officials at 5th Fleet told Navy Times that an earlier statement incorrectly said the Pakistan Navy Ship PSN Aslat had aided in the search.
The squadron the sailor belonged to, made up of about 200 servicemembers, is part of Carrier Air Wing 7 and is assigned to the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group, which had its deployment to the region expedited in May, amid escalating tensions with Iran.
Since May, the U.S. has ordered additional bomber and fighter aircraft, and some 2,000 more troops to be sent the region to bolster security for U.S. forces there.
The U.S. government has claimed Iran was behind several recent attacks on commercial ships in the Gulf of Oman and the Strait of Hormuz. Iran and rebel forces it backs in Yemen each also downed U.S. drones last month.
This week, the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer, which arrived in 5th Fleet waters in late June, reportedly downed an Iranian drone after several of the country’s aircraft reportedly harassed the U.S. warship as it entered the strait.
Meanwhile, Iran seized two merchant ships transiting the strait late Friday, including a British oil tanker.