USS Teddy Roosevelt

Rare Access Onboard The US Warship Fighting Islamic State In The Gulf

USS Teddy Roosevelt

Forces Network has been given a rare glimpse onboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt, currently on her second deployment in the Gulf.

In the first of a series of special reports, we find out more about a warship that has launched thousands of bombing missions in Syria and Iraq.

Her class has also been home to many of the crew and pilots that will staff HMS Queen Elizabeth, who will have completed at least some of their training on American Nimitz-class carriers, which can carry more than 60 aircraft.

The first of Britain's new aircraft carriers is expected to be ready to operate its first squadron of F-35B stealth fighters within two years, with the first aircraft arriving this autumn. By 2021 she will undertake her first operational deployment. 


The Roosevelt left San Diego in October, joining two other US supercarriers, the Nimitz and Ronald Reagan, in the Western Pacific in a show of force to North Korea.

From there, she continued her 12,000-mile journey, eventually arriving beginning operation in the Gulf in December.

"[A] typical amount of sorties for us a day is about 80, across the whole carrier," says Captain Chris Ford.

"We did a lot more strikes two years ago, where now we don't do nearly as many because there is less ISIS to actually target."

Built at a cost of $4.5 billion, the equivalent of around £3 billion, the USS Theodore Roosevelt was commissioned in 1986.

It was the ship that launched the first air strikes on Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, and carried out more missions than any other carrier during the Gulf War.

Jet landing on USS Theodore Roosevelt
She carries 80 aircraft and more than 5,000 personnel, while the carrier's flight deck is 332 metres long, the same length as 39 London buses.

The USS Theodore Roosevelt is currently on her second deployment in the Gulf, having arrived there in December.

Jets on board the carrier typically fly seven-hour combat missions over Iraq and Syria.

The Roosevelt was first deployed at the beginning of operations against IS in 2015, when the terror group had around 31,000 fighters.

The group's numbers are now thought to be much lower, as few as under 1,000, confined to a region of eastern Syria's Euphrates River Valley. Rear Admiral Steve Koehler, Carrier Strike Group Commander, said:

"It's a pretty complex battlespace."

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In late January aircraft from the Roosevelt launched airstrikes on an Islamic State headquarters building in Syria, killing 150 terrorists.

And for the first time last month she launched simultaneous strikes over both Syria and Afghanistan in the same day, destroying a Taliban narcotics factory.

An FA/18 pilot with 12 years experience told us:

"We're there to support the US forces on the ground, and ride the area of ISIS occupation.

Roosevelt Hornet
The Roosevelt carries 44 FA/18 Hornets and Super Hornets among its aircraft.

"A lot of what we're doing now is intelligence-gathering - locating ISIS, developing those targets and once we have those prerequisites met, then we'll execute some sort of strike."

The ship itself must be kept moving at more than 30 mph, in order to generate enough wind for aircraft to fly.

Approaching the carrier at 150 mph, they are guided on to the deck by Landing Signal Officers and Primary Flight Control.

"We watch the pattern and make sure the aircraft aren't going to hit each other," says CDR Jason Boles, Assistant Air Officer.

"We'll stop aircraft from taking off if we have to, and save a life."