Thursday, March 24, 2022

USS Harry S. Truman Flexes Muscle in the Mediterranean

At Poliitco Europe, "‘The only thing Putin understands is strength’: US aircraft carrier flexes muscle in the Med": Russian ships and submarines patrolling the Mediterranean, the USS Truman teams up with French and Italian carriers.

NORTHERN IONIAN SEA — The flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman was covered with jet engine gas vapor as F-18 Super Hornets rocketed into the sky one after the other. Watching takeoffs and landings at close quarters “is one of the most dangerous things you will ever do,” claimed my minder, an officer with 28 years of experience in the Navy.

In the sound and fury of the flight deck, this didn’t feel like hyperbole: The experience was jarring. Despite ear-defenders, the growl of the throttle from an aircraft that travels at 1.8 times the speed of sound makes your chest cage rattle and your heart race. More than once we were yelled at with drill-sergeant intensity to “GET BEHIND THE LINE!” as aircraft constantly taxied, took off and landed around us. Welcome to the danger zone.

While the high tempo was business as usual for the crew of the USS Truman, the backdrop, both geographically and politically, was not: Accustomed to the Pacific Ocean and the seas of the Middle East, the USS Truman’s strike group is now in the northern Ionian Sea, its fighter jets and radar planes patrolling NATO’s eastern borders and looking east, to a Ukraine now under invasion from Russian armed forces.

Since the invasion almost a month ago, these jets have flown more than 75 patrol missions across NATO’s eastern flank up to the Ukraine border, from the Truman. The so-called Enhanced Air Policing mission is part of NATO’s Assurance Measures introduced in 2014, after Russia’s illegal annexation of the Crimean peninsula, and is aimed at defending NATO airspace, preventing incursions by Russians.

The 20-story nuclear-powered Truman is the flagship of a strike group, a mobile fighting force of up to 10 destroyers and submarines, eight aircraft squadrons and a missile cruiser that can move anywhere in the world’s seas, launching missile or air strikes or merely providing visible proof of American resolve.

As a mobile U.S. airbase, the Truman will be on the front line if NATO decides to enforce a no-fly zone, or should the worst happen and NATO forces be drawn into a direct conflict. “The role of Truman, with other allies, is to deter Russians from further aggression and to be on constant standby for orders that might be given from our president or from other leaders around the world for the protection of Ukraine and the people of Ukraine,” Secretary of the U.S. Navy Carlos Del Toro told POLITICO during a visit to the carrier...

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