A MASSIVE “Western Armada” of 19 warships is massing in the Mediterranean amid fears the bloody Israel conflict could spiral into a new Gulf War.
The monster fleet sent by Nato allies includes the world’s largest aircraft carrier, elite guided-missile cruisers, destroyers, frigates, and support ships.
The ships are meant as a deterrent to ensure the conflict does not expand, but the sheer size of the fleet brings a significant amount of power to a region that already has an untold number of U.S. submarines, military ships, planes, and troops at its disposal.
The first aircraft carrier – the USS Gerald R. Ford – arrived in the eastern Med early last week.
The team manning the ship announced on X, formerly known as Twitter: “On scene, on time, ready. The Gerald R. Ford’s first deployment.”
READ MORE ON THE GAZA CONFLICT
The Ford is the United States’ newest aircraft carrier and the world’s largest, with nearly 5,000 sailors aboard.
The carrier, powered by a nuclear reactor, can hold more than 75 aircraft including F-18 Super Hornet fighter jets and the E-2 Hawkeye, which can act as an early warning system.
It has an arsenal of missiles, such as the Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile, which is a medium-range, surface-to-air missile used to counter drones and aircraft.
The rolling airframe missile on the Ford is used to target anti-ship missiles along with the Mk-15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon System which is used to fire armor-piercing bullets.
The Ford also includes sophisticated radars that can help control air traffic and navigation.
The supporting ships included the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser Normandy.
Seven Arleigh-Burke-class guided missile destroyers were also shipped out, including Thomas Hudner, Ramage, Carney, Roosevelt, and Laboon.
They include surface-to-air, surface-to-surface, and anti-submarine warfare capabilities.
The Pentagon has also directed the Dwight Eisenhower carrier strike group to move to the eastern Mediterranean.
It is set to reach the waters near Israel within a week to a week-and-a-half.
The nuclear-powered carrier first carried out operations during Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait.
The carrier has 5,000 sailors and can carry up to nine squadrons of aircraft, such as fighter jets and helicopters – as well as those capable of carrying out intelligence and surveillance operations.
Similar to the Ford, the carrier will be accompanied by other ships like the guided-missile cruiser Philippine Sea, and guided-missile destroyers Gravely and Mason.
The ships are focused on protecting themselves and the carrier, but while they can carry out sophisticated offensive operations, they are not best suited to act as a missile defense system for Israel – which already has systems in place.
The Royal Navy’s Type-45 destroyer HMS Duncan has also been sent out to Israel, after becoming the flagship of Standing Maritime Group 2 earlier this year.
Commodore Paul Stroud took charge of the task group from the US Navy in July.
The group consists of five major warships that patrol waters between Gibraltar and the eastern shore of the Med.
HMS Duncan has now joined forces with seven other vessels as part of the group after being assigned to NATO’s premier Mediterranean naval force after working independently.
Last week, the force spent a week together as part of an intensive training package where crews were challenged to carry out complex scenario-handling tasks.
This included tactical communications and maneuvering, live gunnery, air defense, surface warfare, and replenishment-at-sea.
The group contains 1,500 personnel from six nations assigned to seven ships – led by HMS Duncan’s 200-strong crew.
An estimated 2.5 million square miles of ocean are patrolled by warships.
Last week, the UK also sent two landing support ships, Royal Marines, and spy planes in a show of military support for Israel.
Rishi Sunak approved the military package on October 11 which included Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessels Lyme Bay and Argus, a P8 aircraft, surveillance assets, three Merlin helicopters, and a company of Royal Marines.
The British armed forces will be on standby to “deliver practical support to Israel and partners in the region, and offer deterrence and assurance,” No 10 said.
A Royal Navy task group will also be moved to the eastern Mediterranean this week as a contingency measure to support humanitarian efforts.
OSINTdefender, an online intelligence researcher, shared the list of ships in Nato’s “massive naval armada” in the eastern Med and wrote: “This is much more than just Posturing for an Israeli Invasion of Gaza”.
It comes after Israel blitzed two Syrian airports and left them unusable in response to fresh exchanges of fire across the border by Hamas terrorists.
The airports in both Aleppo and Damascus were “out of service” after the debilitating strikes from Israel – causing fears to grow that Syria and Iran could enter the conflict.
Footage showed the airport in Aleppo burning after the strike last week, and the airport in Damascus was also seriously hit.
The airstrikes were in response to new threats as militants in both Lebanon and Syria launched rockets over the northern Israel border.
It has raised fears of the conflict opening up new fronts and spreading across the Middle East.