For the first time in nearly two and a half years, US jets launched airstrikes in Iraq from an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf. The strikes were carried out on September 23rd by two F/A-18F Super Hornets from the USS Nimitz, a spokeswoman for the Bahrain-based US 5th Fleet told Stars and Stripes on Monday.
“The last such strike was by USS Theodore Roosevelt in [March] 2018,” Cmdr. Rebecca Rebarich said. Rebarich only said the attacks were carried out in Iraq and did not elaborate on targets.
Operation Inherent Resolve, the anti-ISIS coalition fighting in Iraq and Syria, reported airstrikes on ISIS hideouts in Kirkuk, Iraq, on that same day. It is likely that these strikes were carried out by the carrier-launched jets, but Stars and Stripes could not confirm this.
Launching the strikes from an aircraft carrier is a significant escalation in the US air campaign on ISIS. The USS Nimitz transited through the Strait of Hormuz and entered the Persian Gulf with an accompanying strike force on September 18th.
With the Trump administration ramping up its “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran, the Nimitz patrol is no doubt a show of force aimed at Tehran. Launching airstrikes from the carrier is also likely meant to send a signal to Iran.