Two Amphibs Head Towards Israel, and a Third Puts to Sea in the Med

Elements of the Bataan ARG cross-deck in preparation for splitting off USS Mesa Verde, July 2023 (USN)
Elements of the Bataan ARG cross-deck in preparation for splitting off USS Mesa Verde, July 2023 (USN)

Published Oct 17, 2023 3:43 PM by The Maritime Executive

Two U.S. Navy amphibs carrying hundreds of Marines are heading in the general direction of Israel, defense officials told CNN and Politico last night. A third American amphib from the same command has departed a port in Spain.

The USS Carter Hall and USS Bataan, two of the three amphibs of the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group, are departing their station in the Arabian Sea and transiting towards the Mediterranean, the Navy confirmed. While they do not have orders yet to hold station off Israel, they are expected to receive that command soon. The force will stand by in case it is needed to assist with the evacuation of American citizens. 

Carter Hall and Bataan were deployed to the Middle East in June as part of a larger effort to discourage Iran from interfering with commercial shipping in the Strait of Hormuz. Together, they carry a force of Marines and related aviation assets selected from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit. 

In August, USS Mesa Verde separated from Carter Hall and Bataan in order to stay in Europe and support other objectives. When the flotilla split up, elements of the embarked 26th MEU were also divided and cross-decked at sea - a substantial undertaking - in order to maintain expeditionary capabilities on all three of the ships. If Mesa Verde, Carter Hall and Bataan were to reunite at a given location, the Marine components of a full ARG would be brought back together. 

If the three amphibs all transit to the Eastern Mediterranean, they would add to a growing accumulation of firepower off the coast of Israel. One carrier strike group is already present, and a second is under way. The ARG and its 2,400 Marines would add a different set of capabilities: the 26th MEU is designated Special Operations Capable (SOC), and is trained and equipped for "amphibious operations, crisis response, and limited contingency operations, to include enabling the introduction of follow-on forces." 

An MV-22B transport aboard USS Bataan, Oct. 2023 (USN)

An MV-22B transport from the Bataan ARG delivers Marines of the 26th MEU, Oct. 2022 (USMC)