Belmont Club

Where are the carriers?

In a previous thread, Belmont Club Commenters, thinking on the crisis in Libya and the possible need to cover an evacuation there asked, “where are the carriers”?

103. Cowboy — Here’s where they are:

CVN Enterprise: North Arabian Sea
CVN Vinson: North Arabian Sea
CVN Lincoln: Singapore
CVN Washington: Japan
CVN Stennis: San Diego
CVN Truman: Norfolk
CVN Reagan: Eastern Pacific
CVN Bush: Western Atlantic

No carrier group in the Med. … 105. Blast From the Past — Cowboy, That means that 3, the Nimitz, Roosevelt and Eisenhower, are in overhaul and can’t get underway. Another 4, the Stennis, Truman, Reagan and Bush are either undergoing training and preparing to deploy or are recently returned and awaiting an overhaul.

And now ten retired British senior officers have asked, “where are the carriers?” According to the BBC the officers criticized the British government for not having an aircraft carrier to cover a possible operation, to which a defense spokesman replied, ‘why should we when the Americans are not?’ The British can’t field a carrier because they have nothing to field. On the other hand, the USN has no carrier in the region because for some reason, they’ve decided not to field.

A former field marshal, three generals and six admirals say the loss of Ark Royal and its fleet of Harrier jets has damaged Britain’s defence capabilities. … Defence Secretary Liam Fox has defended the “difficult decisions”. …

“None of our allies have seen fit to position an aircraft carrier off the coast of Libya as this is not the tool required for this task; there is no requirement for ground attack aircraft, but even if there were we would use our extensive regional basing and overflight rights,” he said.

But a retired US Admiral, James Lyons, writing in the Washington Times writes, “as a first order of business, we should reposition an aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean. The USS Enterprise and the USS Kearsarge, both in the Red Sea, and perhaps the USS Ponce as well, should be turned around to re-transit the Suez Canal and take a position off the coast of Libya.”

As the Enterprise and Kearsarge were leaving the Med, two Iranian warships were actually entering it, in a kind of revolving door act whose symbolism Teheran probably relished. The potential problem was obvious. As Bellum at the Stanford Review noted:

In terms of the Westerners still stuck in Libya, reportedly some 5,000-6,000 Europeans remain. Without a significant ground component in addition to the aerial units enforcing the putative no-fly zone, the intervening power would be setting up the mother of all hostage situations. Assorted tribes, Libyan military, and mercenaries could all respond by seizing these hapless foreigners as bargaining chips, human shields, and so forth.

And it was not just the Iranians. The Wall Street Journal reports that China has used the crisis to showcase its naval power.  It also sent chartered ships and aircraft to evacuate 30,000 Chinese nationals stuck in Libya.

China has sent one of its most modern warships to protect vessels extracting thousands of its citizens from Libya, in the Asian power’s first naval operation in the Mediterranean Sea and its first deployment of military hardware in a civilian evacuation mission. The Chinese navy diverted the Xuzhou, a 4,000 ton missile frigate, from anti-piracy patrols off the coast of Somalia and dispatched it to the Libyan coast on Thursday, according to a statement on the Chinese Defense Ministry’s web site.

As the Chinese and Iranians were heading in, the US was perhaps coincidentally, heading out. But the West could get lucky and not be faced with a hostage situation at all. The trouble is, given the almost unbroken series of crises that have rocked the region and the world, luck is getting a little hard to rely on.

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