US sending more warships and Marines to Gulf to counter Iran

Defence Secretary Austin approves additions to combat Iranian efforts to seize commercial ships

The USS Bataan arrives in New York Harbour for Fleet Week on May 25, 2022. AFP
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The US is sending more warships and thousands of Marines to the Middle East to increase security after Iranian attempts to seize commercial ships there.

Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin on Thursday approved sending the USS Bataan amphibious readiness group and the 26th Marine Expeditional Unit to the Gulf region, US officials said.

The group consists of three ships, including the Bataan, an amphibious assault ship. An expedition unit usually consists of about 2,500 Marines.

US Central Command said the deployment will provide “even greater flexibility and maritime capability in the region". The announcement did not name the ships, but US officials detailed the units involved.

The other two warships in the group are the USS Mesa Verde and the USS Carter Hall. The group left Norfolk, Virginia, this month. It was unclear on Thursday if all three ships would continue into the Gulf region.

It comes after decisions in recent weeks to send the USS Thomas Hudner, a destroyer, and F-35 and F-16 fighter jets to the region.

There have also been A-10 attack aircraft there for several weeks in response to the Iranian activity.

Iran tried to seize two oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz early this month, opening fire on one of them.

The fighter aircraft are intended to give air cover for the commercial ships moving through the busy waterway and increase the military’s visibility in the area, as a deterrent to Iran.

Gen Erik Kurilla, who leads Central Command, said the additional forces “provide unique capabilities, which alongside our partner nations in the region further safeguard the free flow of international commerce and uphold the rules-based international order, and deter Iranian destabilising activities in the region”.

Updated: July 21, 2023, 12:48 AM