lookout bridge USS Boxer

What Assets Does The US Have In The Gulf Region?

With HMS Kent heading to the Gulf amid tensions with Iran, we look at what resources the US has deployed to the area.

 lookout bridge USS Boxer

A lookout on the bridge of USS Boxer (Picture: US Navy)

The current tensions between the United States and Iran in the Persian Gulf region have led the US Navy to boost the firepower at its disposal in the area.

It now has more Navy personnel deployed in the Middle East than anywhere else in the world

The major air firepower asset in the region is Carrier Strike Group 12 led by the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-32.)

This Nimitz class carrier has a top speed of over 30 knots and its nuclear power plant means its ‘range’ is measured at 25 years.

Abraham Lincoln has a crew of 3,200 and has another 2,480 personnel make up the air wing for the 90 aircraft and helicopters embarked.

The large number of pilots and maintainers allow the carrier to support strike operations 24/7 for sustained periods.

Flight crewman on USS Abraham Lincoln watches an F/A-18F Super Hornet land (Credit: US Navy)
A flight crewman on USS Abraham Lincoln watches an F/A-18F Super Hornet land (Picture: US Navy).

Carrier Strike Group 12 (CSG-12) also includes at least three Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, each of which carries up to 90 Tomahawk cruise missiles.

One of these destroyers, the USS Bainbridge, was the first naval vessel on the scene after the attack on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman on 13 June.

Another GSG-12 destroyer is USS Mason, which survived attacks from nine anti-ship missiles fired by Houthi insurgents while operating off the coast of Yemen in October 2016.

CSG-12 also includes the Ticonderoga class guided-missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf, named after the largest naval battle in history.

This cruiser uses the highly sophisticated AEGIS combat system and carries over 100 air defence missiles.

Carriers are always accompanied by air defence ships and HMS Queen Elizabeth will normally operate with a Type 45 destroyer in the vicinity.

Aircraft carriers are wide-area domination systems and, as such, they would be unlikely to enter the busy confines of the Persian Gulf but would probably remain in the Arabian Sea, where it is much harder to approach undetected.

USMC Harrier
USS Boxer during night flight operations (Picture: US Navy).

The Carrier Group has been joined by the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Boxer.

Boxer leads 4,500 US sailors and marines who are part of an Amphibious Ready Group (ARG).

On 19 July, the USS Boxer downed an Iranian drone in the Straits of Hormuz using a jammer called Light Marine Air Defense Integrated System.

The ARG includes the San Antonio-class ship USS John P. Murtha, which is designed to carry United States Marine Corps vehicles and landing craft.

It also includes the USS Harpers Ferry, which holds vehicles and giant hovercraft known as Landing Craft Air Cushion.

Embarked on the Amphibious Ready Group is the United States Marine Corps 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

The USMC operate older helicopters and aircraft than the other US services including Vietnam War-era Supercobra and Huey helicopters, known as Venoms.

They also operate Harrier AV-8B aircraft, which still use spares from the UK’s Harrier fleet that the US Navy purchased in 2011.

All of the ships in the ARG can also operate the V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft.

Since tensions have risen with Iran, the US has also deployed B52 Stratofortress bombers to Qatar. 

These bombers can be configured with different payloads but each bomber can carry up to 20 air-launched cruise missiles.

The US has also deployed F-35 Lightning aircraft and Patriot air defence missile systems to the United Arab Emirates.

11th Marine Expeditionary Unit USS Boxer (credit: US Navy)
11th Marine Expeditionary Unit weapon training on USS Boxer (Picture: US Navy)

The UK is now joining the US operating in the region despite the US deciding to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal against the advice of partner nations.  

Carrier Strike Group 12 also had a Spanish frigate attached while it was in the Mediterranean, but this left when it redeployed through the Suez canal.

British assets in the region are based at the UK Maritime Component Command in Bahrain as part of Operation Kipion. 

These include the Type 23 frigate HMS Montrose which is permanently based in the Gulf with two crews who change over on a rotational basis.

Type 45 destroyer HMS Duncan has now re-deployed from the Mediterranean to the Gulf.

Also based in Bahrain is the Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship Cardigan Bay, which can support amphibious operations and acts as a mothership for four UK minehunters deployed in the area. 

In the wider region, the UK has Typhoon fighter jets based in Cyprus on Operation Shader.

These have now been joined by F-35 Lightning II aircraft, which have been conducting operational sorties over Syria and Iraq.