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February 3, 2012 12:32 pm

The 5th Fleet: Inside the U.S. Armada That Will Check Iran

avatar by Lakkana Nanayakkara

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Aircraft carriers USS Abraham Lincoln and USS John C. Stennis sail in formation during a turnover of responsibility in the Arabian Sea. Photo: US Navy Central Command

The United States Fifth Fleet is currently responsible for naval operations in the Persian Gulf, Red Sea, and Arabian Sea, following a long line of U.S. naval operations in the Middle East.  Due to the international pressures facing Iran over its nuclear program, and the threat of confrontation over its continuation, The Algemeiner found it timely to inform its readership about the world’s most substantial deterrent against immediate Iranian backlash following a unilateral or multi-lateral strike – the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet.

From 1950 until 1971 – the year Bahrain gained its independence – the U.S. Navy leased office space from the British naval complex in Juffair, and following the British departure, extensive new base facilities were constructed in Bahrain, including a 128,144-square-foot, $25 million complex completed in January of 2004 by the U.S. Navy.

The Fifth Fleet was formally reactivated on July 1, 1995, almost 50 years after it’s deactivation in 1947.

It is usually comprised of at least one Carrier Strike Group equipped with ships and aircraft, with approximately 25,000 people serving afloat and 3,000 support personnel ashore. At the time of publication, there are two aircraft carriers operating within the Fifth Fleet Area of Responsibility (AOR).

The USS Abraham Lincoln arrived in the AOR on January 19, 2012, escorted by the guided-missile cruiser USS Cape St. George, two US destroyers, a British frigate and a French vessel. It joined the USS Carl Vinson which had been in the theater since January 9, 2012.

Prior to its arrival in the Gulf,  Iranian army chief Ataollah Salehi threatened military action if a US carrier returned to the area saying “I recommend and emphasize to the American carrier not to return to the Persian Gulf. … We are not in the habit of warning more than once”.  The USS Abraham Lincoln arrived without incident after Iran backed away from the earlier threat.

Both ships, the Abraham Lincoln and the Carl Vinson are Nimitz-class super-carriers which displace more than 100,000 tons of water, carry approximately 6000 crew and 90 aircraft. The corpse of Osama Bin Laden was buried at sea in May 2011 from the deck of the USS Carl Vinson.

Historically, the U.S. has engaged Iran off its shores.  During the Iran-Iraq war several United States’ warships and merchant ships were damaged by Iranian sea mines and were fired upon. In response the U.S. Navy launched Operation Praying Mantis on April 18, 1988, destroying half of Iran’s operational navy. When the Iran-Iraq war ended, U.S. Naval forces along with European and Arabian Gulf allies, accomplished the mission of protecting vital gulf tanker traffic. These types of operations would be heavily supported by the Fifth Fleet.

Recently, despite rising tensions between Iran and the United States, the Fifth Fleet rescued 4 Iranian civilian vessels in distress so far in 2012. Following these events, the two aircraft carriers are expected to “simultaneously conduct operations in different areas of the AOR, to adequately provide support operations requirements and other security commitments in the region.”

In the event of an Iranian blockade of major shipping routes through the Strait of Hormuz, the United States and its allies would consider it to be a breach of international law which guarantees rights of passage. According to the US Energy Information Administration, the strait is the “most important choke-point” for the world’s oil tankers.

The U.S. Fifth Fleet is responsible for maintaining the stability of that choke-point.

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  • David Smith

    I was in Iran in the 70’s when we were friends with them. At that time they were no match for our military even back then. They have not been able to upgrade their military technology since then to any real extent. I laugh when I see the little speed boats that race around the gulf, in comparison to our huge floating cities of aircraft carriers and all the hidden underwater military just poised awaiting the right order to take those nuts out. I also laugh at the leaders remarks today about touching Americans abroad. So they will helplessly and shamefully attack innocent people. I myself can’t wait for Israel to pull the trigger. They could take them out all by themselves without our help. And then you have the United States which really has them surrounded. I hope we take them out lock, stock and barrel and stop getting threatened by those nuts.

    • Nigel Bruce

      Dear David,
      To the contrary, Iran has the capacity to sink the whole of the 5th Fleet in 8-12 hours. This statement was made by the U.S. Navy and is recognized as being an on the ground fact. They have a very potent capability which is why we and the Israelis have not done so.
      It could well be a disastrous adventure for us

  • Ashten Williams

    Don’t always think just because we have the biggest stick doesn’t mean it won’t break, especially if the other side has a metal backup(china-russia). It might cost the whole tree to fall down.

    • Nigel Bruce

      Check out Irans military capability on the Janes Weekly website

  • If the Iranian are fool enough to try a close the strait then they will pay for their mistake. The U.S. Fifth Fleet is there to stop them and they will. Iran is no match for the United States. They would lose big time.

    • sam

      You guys are funny…. still think it’s 1947 or 1959 or 1988…wake up chucky this is 2012 and if “praying mantis” was tried now with what iran has…the US will need to dig mass graves to bury ITS OWN SOLDIERS. Ships are just floating buckets when you have land based anti access systems that can reach them!!

      • David Smith

        I absolutely love your chucky comment. Don’t worry Sam our intelligence knows all about the missile accident months ago a missle that can supposedly reach us.

        We are not at all scared. There is more allied support floating around than you know of and we have more than enough muscle to bring Iran to their knees chucky.

        Also your revolutionary guard is not as tough as our Army or Marine units. Why do you think all of our Military Armor sits in Kuwait?

        We also have aircraft that can Easily outmatch your land base crap…chucky.

        How much longer do think Israel will wait before they take action against your crappy leaders? Ha for that thought how much longer will the Iranian elite put up with the crap? Chucky

      • rob

        Reminds me of how the US should fear the Iraqi Army, the fifth largest army in the world. How did that work out? You may think the land based systems can reached those ships, but can they really? Being fired and reaching the target are two different things.