The United States is amassing a war machine in the Middle East in a clear message to Iran to stay on the sidelines as Israel prepares to launch a ground invasion into Gaza to destroy the terror group Hamas.
Within hours of the horrific onslaught on Israel by Hamas on Oct. 7 the U.S. began moving warships, jets and special forces to the region.
Two aircraft carriers including the world’s largest – the USS Gerald R. Ford – have been sent to the eastern Mediterranean, along with scores of planes that could carry out air strikes.
Many more aircraft, including F-15 and F-16 fighter jet squadrons, have been dispatched to US military bases in the region, doubling the number available in the Persian Gulf.
Flight units that were due to come home soon have been told to stay.
The U.S. is ramping up its forces in the Middle East
The world’s largest aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford steams alongside USNS Laramie in the eastern Mediterranean
Three F-18 Super Hornets fly in formation over the USS Gerald R. Ford
Around 2,000 U.S. Marines trained in special operations and amphibious landings have also been redirected from an exercise in Kuwait, and are now on board two warships somewhere off the coast of Bahrain.
The Pentagon is also preparing an additional 2,000 Army and Air Force personnel as a potential rapid response force.
It reflects concern in Washington that Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based terrorist group, or Iran itself, could escalate the crisis into a more dangerous regional conflict.
The main aim of the U.S. military ramp up is to deter Iran and its proxies from making any move.
The USS Gerald R. Ford had just completed an exercise with the Italian Navy before being ordered on its latest mission.
It has a crew of 5,000 and carries 90 warplanes – including F-18 Super Hornet jets, F-35 strike fighters and A-10 tank busters.
The carrier, which includes a nuclear reactor, has an arsenal of weapons like the Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile and the Mk-15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon System, which is used to fire armor piercing bullets.
Two U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II fighter jets fly alongside amphibious assault ship USS Bataan in the Gulf of Oman amid rising tensions with Iran
U.S Marines are on the move in the Middle East after cutting short an exercise in Kuwait
An Hawkeye spy plane launches from the flight deck of the world’s largest aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford
Five support ships, including destroyers, are armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles, surface-to-air, surface-to-surface, and anti-submarine warfare capabilities.
A second aircraft carrier, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, will arrive in the eastern Mediterranean in about a week, also accompanied by four other ships.
The carrier, also known as the ‘Ike,’ has 5,000 sailors and can carry up to nine squadrons of aircraft including fighter jets and helicopters.
Its E2-Hawkeye spy planes will be able to provide early warnings of any missile launches, conduct surveillance, and detect enemy aircraft.
The aircraft carriers can also be used as bases from which to conduct information warfare.
Much of the U.S. operation would be expected to be coordinated from he Forward HQ of US Central Command at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, the largest U.S. base in the Middle East.
U.S Marines are in the area with Osprey aircraft capable of vertical take off and landing
F-18 Super Hornets on the world’s largest aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford
Even before the new influx the U.S. had over 30,000 personnel in the region.
That includes 13,000 in Qatar, 7,000 in Bahrain, at least 3,000 each in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Kuwait, 2,500 in Iraq, and 2,500 in Turkey.
Incirlik Air Base in Turkey is home to 50 American B61 nuclear weapons.
Around 2,000 U.S Marines with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit had just arrived in Kuwait for an exercise when the Hamas attack in Israel happened.
They were told to get back on their sips – the USS Bataan and USS Carter Hall – and have sailed closer to the crisis, now being somewhere near Bahrain.
Their ships carry MV-22 Osprey aircraft which have vertical take off and landing capability.
A spokesman told the Military Times: ‘Should they be ordered, they could participate in some type of operation in support of Israel.’
Meanwhile, a small team of special operations forces has also been sent to Israel to help recover hostages, including Americans, being held by Hamas in Gaza.
U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar
And the Pentagon has ordered about 2,000 extra U.S. forces to be prepared to deploy if needed in the coming days and weeks.
They would provide intelligence and surveillance, transportation and medical capabilities.
The 2,000 troops are likely to include personnel from the Air Force and Army.
A Pentagon spokeswoman said the specific units have not yet been identified but would be able to respond quickly.
She said: ‘This increases our ability to respond quickly to the evolving security environment in the Middle East.
‘No decisions have been made to deploy any forces at this time. The Defense Secretary will continue to assess our force posture and remain in close contact with allies and partners.’
Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based, Iranian-backed terrorist group, has stockpiled up to 150,000 rockets and missiles, and could fire them far into Israel.
An ensuing war between Israel and Lebanon would be even worse than the current Gaza crisis, according to experts.
As Israel prepares for a ground invasion of Gaza, Iran has warned of potential ‘preemptive’ action by Hezbollah.
Hossein Amirabdollahian, the Iranian Foreign Minister, said on Monday: ‘All possible options and scenarios are there for Hezbollah. Any preemptive measure is imaginable in the coming hours.’