The U.S. has moved an aircraft carrier and an Amphibious Ready Group embarked with Marines off the coast of Somalia as U.S. Africa Command has begun repositioning troops from Somalia, USNI News has learned.
As of Monday, USS Nimitz (CVN-68), its escorts and the three-ship Makin Island ARG with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit have been operating just to the east of the Horn of Africa, defense officials confirmed to USNI News. USS Makin Island (LHD-8) and amphibious transport docks USS Somerset (LPD-25) and USS San Diego (LPD-22) make up the ARG while the approximately 2,500 Marines in the MEU are embarked aboard the three ships. Additionally, Makin Island has a squadron of Marine F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters aboard. The trio left the South China Sea via the Strait of Malacca on Dec. 12 for the Indian Ocean, USNI News reported last week.
Nimitz and its strike group have been primarily operating in U.S. 5th Fleet since July, leaving to exercise with the Indian Navy in November. The carrier strike group has been part of the U.S. presence in the Middle East meant to serve as a hedge against Iran since May 2019.
Navy representatives from 5th and U.S. 6th Fleets told USNI that the ships were operating in the Middle East but did not provide additional information. U.S. Africa Command did not immediately respond to a Monday morning request for information from USNI News.
The presence of Nimitz and the Makin Island ARG follow an announcement from AFRICOM that the command had created a new joint task force to manage moving 700 U.S. troops from Somalia to other parts of the continent.