At a green sign from a sailor, a U.S. Harrier fighter jet launches from the amphibious strike ship USS Boxer in the Arabian Sea as an oil tanker passes, a nautical mile away.
The patrol is “standard,” but the scenario – rising tension between America and Iran – isn’t.
Soon after the boom of the Harrier fades two combat helicopters and two unmistakable Osprey plane with their tiltable rotors land back on the flight deck.
Attacks on tankers around the Strait of Hormuz, which the USA blames on Iran, have unsettled crucial transport lanes that connect Middle Eastern oil producers to markets in Asia, North America and beyond.
Iran dismisses involvement; however, has threatened to respond robustly to U.S. sanctions that have adopted President Donald Trump’s abandonment of a significant 2015 pact, by which Iran agreed to restrict nuclear work in return for the lifting of bans.
The USA has increased its military presence and is asking allies to help defend the strategic waters off Yemen and Iran. The U.S. Fifth Fleet, based in Bahrain, says Gulf Arab states have stepped up watching.
Captain Jason Burns, commander of the Boxer, the flagship of the Amphibious Ready Group, said it had left San Diego in May on a Middle East program planned a year earlier, related to “our usual collaborations with our partners in the area.”
On Thursday, the amphibious team sailed via the Gulf of Oman and transited the Strait of Hormuz where helicopters flew over the convoy to ensure a safe passage.
The group consists of the united states john P. Murtha, the U.S. Harpers Ferry, and the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which has nearly 4,500 sailors and Marines.