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Carrier USS Eisenhower Leaves Red Sea

Eisenhower
USS Eisenhower with Italian Navy escorts, June 2024 (USN)

Published Jun 23, 2024 3:49 PM by The Maritime Executive

The carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and her escorts are headed back to the United States after a challenging seven-month deployment. Eisenhower has been away from her home port since October, and has spent most of her deployment defending the Red Sea shipping lanes from Houthi aggression. 

The Houthi security challenge appears to have no end in sight, and some shipping market analysts are betting on a continuation of Red Sea attacks through at least early 2025. The militant group has recently increased the tempo of its missile and bomb-boat attacks, striking multiple ships and sinking its second target. 

With reports of increasing strain on the Ike Carrier Strike Group, the carrier is returning to Norfolk and will be relieved by another supercarrier - USS Theodore Roosevelt - which is departing the strategically vital Indo-Pacific in order to cover Eisenhower's departure. It is part of a large simultaneous cycle of carrier movements: Japan-based USS Ronald Reagan is slated to return to the United States after a seven-year forward deployment, and USS George Washington has arrived in the Western Pacific to take over as the permanently deployed carrier in East Asia. 

According to U.S. Central Command, Eisenhower's aircrew flew 30,000 hours' worth of sorties, and the ship transited more than 55,000 miles during her mission. The carrier was instrumental in airstrikes on Houthi positions and in carrying out helicopter rescue missions for vessels that were hit by Houthi attacks. 

Houthi leaders claimed multiple times that they attacked and hit Eisenhower, but the U.S. Navy has rejected these assertions as categorically false. More quietly, the AP reports that some sailors from the strike group are expected to receive care for PTSD on their return, due to the stress of watching air defenses take down incoming missiles in visual range. 

Over the weekend, Houthi spokesman Yahya Saree claimed that the group once again "targeted the American aircraft carrier Eisenhower in the northern Red Sea" as the vessel departed the area. He also asserted that Houthi forces attacked the merchant ship Transworld Navigator, accusing the vessel of entering an Israeli seaport. (The Houthi movement says that its attacks are motivated by Israel's ongoing operation in Gaza, and it claims to target only vessels that interact with Israeli interests - though it has attacked ships with no clear connection to Israel many times.)