USS Wasp Enters Mediterranean Sea as Fears Grow of Israel-Hezbollah War

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The United States Navy announced that the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1), carrying Marines from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), transited the Strait of Gibraltar. It is heading towards the eastern Mediterranean Sea as tensions escalate between Israel and Hezbollah.

Amphibious Ready Group Deployment

The USS Wasp is set to meet with the Harpers Ferry-class amphibious landing dock ship USS Oak Hill (LSD 51), one of two other ships in the Wasp Amphibious Ready Group (WSP ARG). The third vessel of the ARG, the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS New York (LPD 21), is currently in Germany after participating in the Baltic Operations 2024 (BALTOPS 24) military exercise. A defense official told ABC that it will soon head towards the Mediterranean.

Capabilities and Missions

“There is an inherent flexibility to the type of missions an ARG-MEU can support,” said Capt. Nakia Cooper, commodore of Amphibious Squadron 4, embarked aboard Wasp. “Our ability to operate effectively as a distributed force gives the ARG-MEU that flexibility. Each of our ships is capable of conducting amphibious operations, crisis response, and limited contingency operations on their own, but there is no substitute for the type of combat power we bring to the fight when we constitute as an Amphibious Ready Group.”

Strategic Positioning and Carrier Movements

Defense officials have told various American news outlets that the positioning of the vessels is to act as a deterrent against escalation between Israel and Hezbollah. However, officials told NBC that the vessels are prepared to carry out evacuation efforts of Americans from the region in the event that a war breaks out between the two, although an official decision has not been made yet.

Meanwhile, the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, along with the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Gravely and Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Philippine Sea, are docked at the Naval Support Activity Souda Bay on the Greek island of Crete as it wraps up a nearly nine-month-long deployment to the region. The Eisenhower will be replaced by the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt after it completes exercises in South Korea.

Diplomatic and Military Tensions

While the tensions continue to mount and clashes persist between Israel and Hezbollah, diplomatic efforts to deescalate continue to falter. Like previous deployments to the eastern Mediterranean, the vessels seek to act as a deterrence, although it remains to be seen if it will work as Israel threatens offensive operations into southern Lebanon while Hezbollah warns of widespread retaliatory strikes. While the United States has not officially stated whether or not the MEU will be put into action if war breaks out to evacuate Americans from the region, some officials have signaled that preparations have been made.