As tensions mount, there are at least two and possibly three U.S. carriers within the theater of operations including the Persian Gulf, as the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln transited the Strait of Hormuz, despite previous Iranian threats and Iranian patrols following the ship.
But there were no incidents on Tuesday as the Lincoln's battle group crossed through the narrow strait, which Iran has threatened to close in retaliation for tighter Western sanctions.
Several U.S. choppers flanked the carrier group throughout the voyage from the Gulf. Radar operators also picked up an Iranian drone and surveillance helicopter in Iran's airspace near the strait, which is jointly controlled by Iran and Oman.
The 5th Fleet represents the primary armada with responsibility for the area; also, the John C. Stennis transited the Strait in December and has now left Singapore, effective Jan 31, said to be retuning home.
Prior to its arrival in the Gulf, Iranian army chief Ataollah Salehi threatened military action if a US carrier returned to the area saying “I recommend and emphasize to the American carrier not to return to the Persian Gulf. … We are not in the habit of warning more than once”.
The USS Abraham Lincoln arrived without incident after Iran backed away from the earlier threat.
Both ships, the Abraham Lincoln and the Carl Vinson are Nimitz-class super-carriers which displace more than 100,000 tons of water, carry approximately 6000 crew and 90 aircraft. The corpse of Osama Bin Laden was buried at sea in May 2011 from the deck of the USS Carl Vinson.
The U.S. Fifth Fleet is led by Vice-Admiral Mark Fox, who previously warned of Iran's heightened capabilities. Though they are not thought to be a real match for the Fifth Fleet, that doesn't mean that a genuine threat does not exist.
... Iran has prepared boats outfitted with large warheads that could be used to launch suicide attacks on the U.S. Navy.
The news follows a series of threats issued by the Iranians in recent weeks that they will disrupt shipping in the Gulf in retaliation for economic sanctions placed by the U.S. government in the dispute over its nuclear program.
ABC News reports U.S. Vice-Admiral Mark Fox, head of the U.S. Fifth Fleet, said: "They have increased the number of submarines...they increased the number of fast attack craft. Some of the small boats have been outfitted with a large warhead that could be used as a suicide explosive device. The Iranians have a large mine inventory. We have watched with interest their development of long-range rockets and short, medium and long-range ballistic missiles and of course ... the development of their nuclear program.
"Reuters reports military experts say Iran's navy is no match for the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet patrolling the Gulf. According to experts, the U.S. Fifth Fleet has, at any time, at least one giant supercarrier with jets and a fleet of frigates and destroyers.
In the Tehran Times, an Iranian commander calls their approach "smart control," though so far they have been smart enough not to close the Strait or engage the Fifth Fleet in a meaningful way. The regime is also trying to glean propaganda from the confrontation at home.
The Islamic Revolution Guards Corps commander says that Iran has adopted the strategy of “smart control of the Strait of Hormuz” in the face of oil sanctions and threats.
“Our strategy toward threats and sanctions is smart control of the Strait of Hormuz” Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari told the Persian service of the Fars News Agency on Monday. “With regard to threats, we have entered a new phase, and now these are our threats that affect the enemy,” he said.
The enemy’s threats have not affected Iran, instead “the Islamic Republic’s threats with regard to controlling and sealing off the Strait of Hormuz or (Iran’s) response to various threats have been more (effective),” Jafari added. Jafari also said, “People’s presence on revolutionary scenes and their full support of the Islamic Republic system’s goals have made the enemy’s threats against Iran ineffective.”