The aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower will head back to sea Thursday after a two-month stop in Norfolk, Va. (MC3 Kevin J. Steinberg / Navy)
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The Eisenhower Carrier Strike group will deploy to the Mediterranean and Middle East on Thursday to relieve the John C. Stennis CSG, a quick return to combat operations after just two months home and a series of shifts in carrier deployment schedules.
Ike returned to Norfolk from 5th Fleet on Dec. 19, three months earlier than planned. The carrier, which deployed in June, was originally slated to remain at sea until earlier this year, when it would be relieved by the carrier Nimitz.
However, ongoing repairs to Nimitz kept that ship tied up in the yards, and the Navy hurried Ike home for repairs and a complete resurfacing of its flight deck so it could be in combat condition for a quick return to the Middle East.
It allowed Ike sailors to spend the winter holidays at home, but it also means they will spend about 11 of 13 months at sea.
The Ike CSG includes Carrier Air Wing 7, Destroyer Squadron 28, the cruiser Hue City and the German frigate Hamburg. The Hamburg trained with the Truman Carrier Strike Group earlier this year and even completed Composite Training Unit Exercise, a final workup before a combat deployment. Federal budget constraints, however, forced the Navy to indefinitely delay the Truman CSG's cruise.
The composition of the Ike CSG differs from plans the Navy revealed in late 2012, when officials said just the carrier and cruiser would deploy this month.