By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (Aug. 07, 2023) -- Sailors and Marines with the Navy's Bataan Amphibious Ready Group and the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit arrived in the Middle East yesterday as part of a pre-announced deployment to support deterrence efforts in the Strait of Hormuz and elsewhere, said Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder.
"As we have been for a very long time, we're coordinating with our partners in the region when it comes to U.S. military presence because, again, it's not just the U.S. military that's out there patrolling commercial shipping lanes. We're working as part of a broader coalition ... on that effort," Ryder said told reporters.
Sailors and Marines arrived in the region aboard the USS Bataan, an amphibious assault ship, and dock landing ship USS Carter Hall.
Last month, the Iranian navy attempted to illegally seize two merchant vessels in the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman.
According to a news report from U.S. Central Command, on July 5, U.S. forces already in Centcom's area of responsibility participated in preventing two commercial tanker ships from being seized by the Iranian military in international waters near the coast of Oman.
One of those ships, the Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker TRF Moss, was approached by an Iranian naval vessel, but the naval vessel departed after the U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS McFaul arrived.
Later the same day, the Bahamian-flagged oil tanker Richmond Voyager was also approached by an Iranian naval vessel. That Iranian naval vessel got within one mile of the tanker and fired on it using small arms and crew-served weapons. As happened with the TRF Moss, the Iranian vessel left when the USS McFaul arrived on the scene.
According to Centcom, Iran has attacked or seized about 20 merchant vessels since 2021.
Ryder said the increased U.S. presence in the Middle East is meant to help partners there keep open important shipping lanes such as at the Strait of Hormuz, which is a choke point between the Arabian Sea and the Persian Gulf. It also contributes further to a long-standing goal of preserving security and stability in the region.
"That's why we've deployed these additional assets, to give us additional options, to speed up timelines and, again, broadly, to ensure stability," Ryder said.
According to a news release from U.S. Central Command, an amphibious assault ship, such as the USS Bataan, can carry more than two dozen rotary-wing and fixed-wing aircraft. That could include MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft and AV-8B Harrier attack jets, in addition to several amphibious landing craft. A dock landing ship, such as the USS Carter Hall, also supports operations for various rotary-wing aircraft, tactical vehicles, and amphibious landing craft.