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Nimitz heads into Med after weeks in Red Sea

Oct. 21, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
The aircraft carrier Nimitz entered 5th Fleet in June. It moved through the Suez Canal and into the Mediterranean Sea on Sunday.
The aircraft carrier Nimitz entered 5th Fleet in June. It moved through the Suez Canal and into the Mediterranean Sea on Sunday. (MCSN Derek A. Harkins / Navy)
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The aircraft carrier whose cruise was extended when U.S. military action against Syria appeared imminent is now headed to the Mediterranean Sea for a well-deserved port call — and should be heading home before Christmas.

The Nimitz, now into its seventh month of deployment, transited to the Med via the Suez Canal on Sunday with cruiser Monterey, the Navy said Monday in a news release. The flattop had spent weeks in the Red Sea, one of the two flattops in a potential strike force.

A Navy official said the Suez transit was to give the crew a port visit, and that the carrier was not being moved in response to the situation in Syria, where United Nations weapons inspectors are supervising the destruction of the regime’s chemical weapons.

“It’s not related to Syria,” said the official familiar with reasons for ship movements. “It’s to get a port visit because they’re definitely due one.”

Details on the port visit have yet to be announced.

Nimitz’s last port call was in Bahrain in early August. The ship has spent 70 days underway since, a long stretch that includes the death of two helicopter pilots assigned to the strike group. They were lost at sea Sept. 22 after their helicopter “rolled off the flight deck of [a destroyer] after significant ship roll,” according to the Naval Safety Center’s summary of the mishap.

In addition to its port call, Nimitz is expected to train with naval partners while in the Med. Officials said they plan for the carrier to head home in mid-November and return to its home port, Everett, Wash., before Christmas.

Other elements of the strike force, including the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group and some of the four destroyers patrolling the eastern Med, are expected to also detach for home or other missions in the coming weeks, unless the Syria crisis heats back up.

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