What’s cooking as a US armada expands off the Israeli shore? | Mint
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Business News/ Opinion / Views/  What’s cooking as a US armada expands off the Israeli shore?
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What’s cooking as a US armada expands off the Israeli shore?

It is mainly to rescue Americans especially if the violence escalates

The principal reason to consider speeding aircraft carriers to the scene of the crisis is the presence of so many United States citizens in a war zone.Premium
The principal reason to consider speeding aircraft carriers to the scene of the crisis is the presence of so many United States citizens in a war zone.

Days after the arrival of a United States armada off the coast of Israel, another three warships and a contingent of marines set off urgently in the same direction from Kuwait on Thursday and could be there by the middle of [this] week.

As there’s already a massive concentration of firepower in place, centered around the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, USS Gerald R. Ford, the additional forces raise questions about what capabilities will be available and how they could be used in the Gaza war.

The principal reason to consider speeding them to the scene of the crisis is the presence of so many United States citizens in a war zone. There are roughly 200,000 Americans, mostly dual citizens, in Israel.

In addition to the possibility of being caught in the crossfire between Israel and Hamas in the south, there is a very real risk of a wider conflict if Hezbollah—with the likely green light from Iran—decides to join the fight from the north.

The administration will want more than the direct combat power of the USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier strike group. That may explain why the warships and Marines were ordered to cut short a training exercise that was scheduled to run through October 22 due to what the Pentagon called “emerging events."

USS Bataan, at 40,000 tons and over 800 feet in length, is a smaller version of a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. With conventional propulsion, she has a powerful airwing that typically includes six F-35 strike fighters (with vertical takeoff capability), alongside a dozen of the assault support tiltrotor MV-22 Ospreys to get Marines rapidly ashore in a crisis.

The ship also has very capable missile defense systems, surveillance radars and a crew of over 1,200 sailors. There is a complete medical and surgical operating facility, along with space to embark nearly 2,000 Marines.

I’ve commanded these ships as both a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) commander and earlier at the United States Southern Command, where we used them for medical diplomacy throughout Latin America and the Caribbean—but their real purpose is to support Marines in combat.

USS Carter Hall, also part of the amphibious group, is somewhat smaller at 16,000 tons and 600 feet in length, but she carriers a powerful punch of amphibious assault vehicles and landing craft.

The third ship in the group, USS Mesa Verde, is a newer and larger version of Carter Hall, sized at roughly 25,000 tons.

In addition to the attack aircraft on the ships, the real offensive punch of the force is the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit with more than 2,000 Marines.

The Marine Expeditionary Unit is configured for special operations, including a significant element of the vaunted Marine special operators, whose training resembles that of the United States Navy Sea, Air, and Land (SEAL) Teams or the Army Green Berets.

Overall, the Marine Expeditionary Unit has over 2,000 combat-trained Marines organized into an infantry battalion, an airwing to transport them, and embedded logistics support—everything from water purification systems to big tactical trucks and fast Humvees.

With a couple of thousand Marines nearby at sea, the President’s options will include securing airports for military and chartered commercial evacuation of Americans; guarding concentration points to collect citizens preparing to evacuate; securing coastal bases if air evacuation becomes too dangerous; and providing emergency medical support.

Above all, the special operations elements of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit could be part of finding, fixing, and rescuing American hostages.

This would obviously be done in complete coordination with Israeli special forces, and with a recognition that such operations are inherently dangerous and very often end with tragic outcomes for innocent hostages. It would most likely include United States tier-one special forces, the elite Navy SEALs and Green Berets operating globally out of Fort Liberty, North Carolina.

This all sounds like the culmination of a Tom Clancy novel, and all of this will be controversial in terms of potentially having actual United States boots on the ground and fighter jets and helicopters in the skies above the fight in Gaza.

But the highest obligation of a President is to protect American lives, and if events spiral into an even higher level of violence in Israel, the presence of United States Marines gives the administration more and better options to respond. Send in the Marines. ©bloomberg

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Published: 17 Oct 2023, 06:06 PM IST
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