The U.S. Defense Department is speeding deployment of the Navy’s John C. Stennis aircraft carrier group to the Middle East, four months ahead of its scheduled deployment, Pentagon spokesman George Little said.
Marine Corps General James Mattis, commander of the U.S. Central Command, who has responsibility for the region, sought the earlier presence of the Stennis strike group and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta approved the request, Little told reporters today.
The deployment of the Stennis “is about a wide range of U.S. security interests” and not specifically tied to threats from Iran or the turmoil in Syria, Little said.
Sending the Stennis group ahead of schedule was intended to avoid having just one aircraft carrier group in the Middle East when the USS Enterprise carrier group leaves the region later this year, Little said. He declined to say when the Enterprise is scheduled to depart. In June, the Pentagon announced a nine-month deployment of the carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower to the area.
The Stennis strike group will include the Navy’s Aegis destroyer USS Mobile Bay and a contingent of 5,500 sailors, Little said.