DUBAI, United Arab Emirates >> The U.S. Navy said Monday it has deployed a second aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf region amid rising tensions with Iran over its disputed nuclear program.
The deployment of the nuclear-powered USS Enterprise along with the Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group marks only the fourth time in the past decade that the Navy has had two aircraft carriers operating at the same time in the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea, said Cmdr. Amy Derrick-Frost of the Bahrain-based 5th Fleet.
The two carriers will support the American military operations in Afghanistan and anti-piracy efforts off Somalia’s coast and in the Gulf of Aden, she said.
The warships also patrol the Gulf’s strategic oil routes that Iran has threatened to shut down in retaliation for economic sanctions slapped on the Islamic Republic because of its nuclear program, which the West suspects aims to develop nuclear weapons.
Iran denies the allegations, and says its program is solely for peaceful purposes.
The deployment of a second aircraft carrier is "routine and not specific to any threat," Derrick-Frost said. She did not say how long the Navy will keep the increased military presence in region.
The last time the U.S. had two carriers operating in the region was in June 2010. Before then, the carriers were deployed in March 2003 during the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and in February 2007 in support of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Enterprise is based in Norfolk, Va. It is the Navy’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier that is now on its last mission.
The Enterprise was commissioned in November 1961. The carrier is scheduled to be deactivated this fall.