USS Lincoln Conducts Combat Drills as Message to Iran
The carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, the amphib USS Kearsarge and their respective retinues have been conducting joint combat training operations in the Middle East amidst rising tensions between the U.S. and Iran.
Exercises involving multiple U.S. Navy task groups occur regularly, but the Lincoln and Kearsarge were dispatched to the area specifically to counter a perceived Iranian threat to American forces, and the details of the operation were calibrated to send a message.
“The exercises and training we are doing with Amphibious Squadron Six, the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit and USS Kearsarge are aimed towards increasing our lethality and agility to respond to threats, and deterring destabilizing actions in this important region,” said Rear Adm. John Wade, commander of Carrier Strike Group 12.
During the operation, the Lincoln's F/A-18 Super Hornet fighters carried out a dissimilar air combat training (DACT) exercise with the U.S. Marine Corps Harrier jump-jets embarked on the USS Kearsarge, and they practiced refueling Harriers from a tank-equipped F/A-18. In addition, the Super Hornets from Lincoln and the Harriers and attack helicopters from the Kearsarge conducted a joint close air support (CAS) exercise. These aircraft do not normally operate together, and they practiced using their joint capabilities to support ground troops in combat.
Tensions between Iran and the United States are running unusually high: Iran announced Monday that it has quadrupled its output of low-enriched uranium, which will quickly put it over treaty limits and set it back on the path towards nuclear capability.
Under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) treaty negotiated under the Obama administration, Iran effectively ended its nuclear weapons program in exchange for broad sanctions relief. International monitors have confirmed that Iran has complied with the terms of the nuclear accord; however, it continues to support militias and U.S.-designated terrorist organizations in the Middle East - items that were not covered under the deal. The Trump administration reimposed sanctions on the Iranian economy last August, and it has successfully reduced Iran's oil exports to a fraction of pre-sanctions levels, drawing protests from Tehran.
In early May, citing unspecified Iranian threats to U.S. interests in the Middle East, the White House deployed the USS Lincoln, the Kearsarge, a contingent of B-52 bombers and a Patriot missile battery to the region. The Trump administration has maintained that it does not seek a conflict, but rhetoric has been heated.
"If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran," wrote President Trump in a Twitter message on Sunday. "Never threaten the United States again!"