Truman Launches Strike Number 2,000 Against ISIS
This week, just prior to the end of her deployment, the U.S. Navy carrier USS Harry S. Truman launched her two-thousandth aircraft mission in the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
The first launch of the campaign took place just after Christmas last year, and in less than six months, the vessel's electronic warfare and strike fighter squadrons have logged more than 2,000 sorties.
"Two thousand is a strong number – the result of months of teamwork and dedication of every Sailor [aboard]," said Commander Darren Wilkins, the Truman's air boss. "The only thing more impressive than the quantity of flights is their quality."
The sustained high-tempo operations for the carrier's airwing concerns some analysts and some in Congress due to maintenance shortfalls, notably in the Navy's F/A-18 Hornet and Super Hornet fleet. Captain Randy Stearns, commodore of Strike Fighter Wing Atlantic, said that there were significant issues with the F/A-18 inventory due to the impact of the budget sequestration – and that the thirty-day extension of the Truman's deployment in the Mediterranean meant that three other F/A-18 squadrons were put on notice that their aircraft could become parts donors to keep the Truman's fighters flying safely.
“We are not currently providing our Navy with the resources it needs to do what we ask,” said Congressman Randy Forbes in a speech last month. “At least not without burning out our ships and our planes and our sailors and undermining our long-term readiness.”
The Truman was joined in the Mediterranean this month by the carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower; the Navy said the presence of two carrier strike groups in the region showed the U.S. commitment to safety and security, while sending "a strong message of support to our allies and partners in Europe."
The Truman and her crew arrived in Crete on Tuesday for her first port call in seven months, and the Eisenhower will take over her role in Operation Inherent Resolve.
Meanwhile, off the east coast of the Phillipines, the carriers USS John C. Stennis and USS Ronald Reagan are conducting a rare joint operation rehearsing "high-end warfighting," or major, full-scale warfare operations. The carriers and their air wings are accompanied by three guided-missile cruisers and six guided-missile destroyers. It is the first such exercise in the Asia-Pacific in almost two years.