The aircraft carrier George H.W. Bush will see its deployment to Europe extended from the planned seven months to about nine months, a defense official confirmed Monday.
Under the revised schedule, the carrier is slated to return to Norfolk, Virginia, in early May, according to the official, who requested anonymity to discuss internal planning. The extension was first reported by Reuters.
And while Bush will be out longer than expected, its assorted missions could evolve as well.
Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh told reporters Monday that Bush was re-positioned closer to Syria “as a precaution” after an attack on U.S. forces there last month by what the department said are Iranian-backed militias.
“We did move the carrier to be slightly closer but it’s still in the purview of EUCOM, but it was in response to, of course, what we saw as increasing attacks on our service members in the region,” Singh said. At least six U.S. service members were injured in such attacks late last month, with one U.S. contractor killed.
Bush and its strike group left the East Coast on Aug. 10, the carrier’s first deployment following 30 months of maintenance that ended in 2021. It becomes the second Norfolk-based carrier to see its deployment extended following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. The carrier Harry S. Truman’s European cruise last year was extended to nine months after Moscow invaded.
The entire Bush strike group will not return with Bush, and the defense official said at least one strike group ship has already returned home.
Bush has spent the deployment in the Mediterranean Sea, conducting exercises with Israel and NATO allies, while keeping a watchful eye on Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
U.S. Fleet Forces commander Adm. Daryl Caudle told Defense News in a March 30 interview that brand-new carrier Gerald R. Ford’s first deployment would be the next carrier strike group deployment from the East Coast, followed by the Dwight D. Eisenhower strike group.
Ford began its Composite Training Unit Exercise, or COMPTUEX, last month, a key requirement before its maiden deployment.
Defense News reporter Megan Eckstein and Military Times reporter Meghann Myers contributed to this report.
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