WASHINGTON — The U.S. Navy will not be able to keep an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf for much of the fall season, according to a Navy official.
The official said that’s because the Navy has to schedule needed maintenance after years of extended deployments and because of reduced spending due to mandatory budget cuts.
While there have been so-called “carrier gaps” in the Persian Gulf before, this one will leave the Navy without the presence of a high-profile aircraft carrier just as a proposed nuclear deal with Iran is at center stage. It also comes as Iranian naval forces have conducted low-level harassment of U.S. and other shipping in the region.
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U.S. military officials insisted that there would be no impact on U.S. operations in the gulf because the Air Force can briefly send additional, land-based aircraft to the region if needed. Airstrikes against ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria are also largely undertaken by the Air Force. The Navy accounts for only about 20% of the ISIS strike missions.
The Pentagon has a formal military requirement to keep at least one carrier in the gulf region at all times, so U.S. Central Command had to approve the decision to have a gap, according to a defense official.
The current carrier in the gulf region, the USS Theodore Roosevelt, is scheduled to leave sometime in October. The replacement aircraft, the USS Harry S. Truman, is not scheduled to arrive until sometime in the winter.
“Overextending the Navy in 2010 to 2013 caused our need to recover maintenance and readiness that caused this gap,” a Navy official told CNN. “The increased frequency and extension of carrier strike group deployments increased wear on the force, which led to increased maintenance and repair requirements and lengthened maintenance availability periods. That recovery time is now upon us.”