Aircraft carrier to return home after 10-month deployment monitoring Iran
The aircraft carrier USS Nimitz is returning stateside after nearly 10 months overseas amid tensions with Iran, the Pentagon confirmed on Tuesday.
The lone Navy aircraft carrier operating in the Middle East, the Nimitz left the Arabian Sea and 5th Fleet after being deployed for more than 270 days, an unusually long deployment. The vessel is currently in the Indo-Pacific on its way back to the United States, according to top Pentagon spokesman John Kirby.
He called the move “a balancing act” between the U.S. military’s requirements and capabilities and not a response to “a specific piece of intel in a specific part of the world.”
“We don’t make decisions like this lightly and there’s a lot of factors, particularly when you’re dealing with a strike group that has been at sea and deployed for as long as it has been – 10 months – and so you have to consider the wear and tear on the ship itself as well as the effect on sailors,” Kirby said.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin “believes that we have a robust presence in the Middle East to respond and it’s a constant discussion that he has . . . His belief is that this move is in the national interest.”
Kirby said he does not have any announcement to make about a replacement aircraft carrier in the region.
The New York Times was the first to report on the change.
The Nimitz and its 5,000-member crew returns to the ship’s home port of Bremerton, Wash., after a whirlwind of back and forth decisions made by the Trump administration in late December and early January.
Former acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller in late December directed that the Nimitz return directly home in a show of de-escalating tensions with Iranian leadership.
But three days later Miller reversed his decision, keeping the vessel in the Persian Gulf after the Pentagon claimed there were threats from Iran against former President Trump.
The Nimitz was first deployed to the region amid mounting brinkmanship with Tehran, which was sparked by Trump’s 2018 decision to pull the United States from the Iran nuclear deal.
The Nimitz’s return comes as President Biden looks to renew discussions with Iran to return to the Obama-era nuclear deal.