For the first time ever, ISIS is under attack from aircraft emanating from both the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf. The USS Harry S. Truman made history last month when it arrived on station off the Syrian coast, and now it has done so again, flying 2,000 sorties against ISIS while dropping a record-setting 1,100 weapons on the Islamic State during the ship’s extended deployment.
According to Navy Times, the USS Theodore Roosevelt previously held the weapons-dropped record, while the USS Carl Vinson still holds the record for the most combat sorties against ISIS, with 2,300 executed during the ship’s last cruise.
At the same time, the Amphibious Helicopter Dock USS Boxer has arrived in the Arabian Gulf, sending its AV-8B Harriers into the fight against the Islamic State. This marks the first time sea-based fixed-wing tactical jets are hitting ISIS from two separate theaters.
Meanwhile, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and its escorts made their way through the Strait of Gibraltar last week, putting two Carrier Strike Group in the Navy’s 6th Fleet area of operations at the same time. The Eisenhower is not yet taking part in airstrikes against ISIS, and will likely push through the Suez Canal and onto the Persian Gulf in the coming weeks. Part of the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group’s mission is also to test green fuels and technologies as part of the “Great Green Fleet” initiative, which could have a broad impact on US naval operations going forward.
With two supercarriers in the Mediterranean, and both the USS Ronald Reagan and the USS John C. Stennis prowling the Philippine Sea, the Navy is putting on quite a show of American naval firepower—one that spans both halves of the globe.
Still, this impressive Naval and Marine air power display contrasts with the poor state of Naval and Marine aviation back in the US, and the tempo of these deployed operations have likely added drastically to the ongoing readiness crisis. Additionally, although large munition drop numbers do show how active our air forces are when it comes to striking ISIS, it also underlines another crisis.
The Pentagon is raiding its reserve stockpiles of precision-guided munitions to keep up with the conflict. These munitions are not something the DoD just buys as it needs; lead times on critical components can be many months, or even years.
This issue also brings into question how we could sustain a conflict against a near-peer state, with tens of thousands of fixed targets to strike, based on such shallow stockpiles. You can have the most expensive and capable combat jet in the world—hundreds or even thousands of them—but if you don’t have guided munitions for them to use, their whole reason for being is put into question.
Contact the author Tyler@thedrive.com