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The United States has deployed a carrier strike group led by the world’s largest warship to the eastern Mediterranean in response to the unprecedented attack by Hamas on Israel.

The USS Gerald R. Ford, the Navy’s latest and most advanced aircraft carrier, is headed to the region as part of a carrier strike group comprised of the military’s most advanced hardware, including a fleet of destroyers, guided-missile cruisers and fighter jets.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced the deployment on Sunday, hours after Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel that has killed hundreds of people, including at least 260 people at a festival near the Gaza border. Israel has declared war on Hamas and is poised to mount an invasion of Gaza.

America’s deployment of its most sophisticated and expensive military hardware marks a major show of force and comes along with the pledge of weapons and equipment to the Israeli Defense Forces.

A carrier strike group is a naval force comprised of an aircraft carrier at its center, along with a fleet of support ships and often attack submarines. The US has 11 carrier strike groups, each with enough firepower to match the forces of many small and mid-sized countries.

The United States has deployed a carrier strike group led by the USS Gerald R. Ford, the world’s largest warship, to the eastern Mediterranean in response to the unprecedented attack by Hamas on Israel

The USS Gerald R. Ford, the Navy’s latest and most advanced aircraft carrier, has been deployed to the eastern Mediterranean in response to the attack by Hamas on Israel

F-18 jet fighters are seen on the flight deck of USS Gerald R. Ford, on November 17, 2022 in Gosport, England

USS Gerald R. Ford, which cost roughly $18 billion to develop – including $4.7 billion for research and development and $12.8 billion in construction – can carry up to 90 aircraft, including the military’s most advanced fighter jets.

The carrier, which is powered by two nuclear engines that can operate for 25 years without a refuel, is accompanied in the Mediterranean by a fleet which includes the USS Normandy guided missile cruiser and the USS Thomas Hudner guided missile destroyer.

Aircraft on board the carrier include F-35 stealth fighter jets, which cost around $100 million each and carry radar-guided missiles and laser-guided bombs, along with attack helicopters and tactical surveillance aircraft.

In total, around 7,500 personnel work across the carrier strike group.

In a statement announcing the deployment, General Michael ‘Erik’ Kurilla, Commander, U.S. Central Command, said America ‘stands firmly with our Israeli and regional partners to address the risks of any party seeking to expand the conflict.’

The USS Gerald R. Ford can carry up to 90 aircraft, including the F-35 stealth fighter jet

U.S. Navy MH-60 Seahawk helicopters can also be deployed from the USS Gerald R. Ford

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, pictured left in March with his Israeli counterpart Yoav Gallant, said America could ‘further reinforce’ its military presence in the region ‘if required’

Austin added: ‘The U.S. maintains ready forces globally to further reinforce this deterrence posture if required.’

Hamas has called the US decision to send the strike group ‘participation in the aggression against our people’ and ‘an attempt to boost the morale of the crumbling Israeli army’. 

The USS Gerald R. Ford, whose first deployment was in October 2022, marks a new era for aircraft carriers and is the world’s largest warship, at 256ft wide, 250ft tall and 1,106ft in length. She has a crew of around 4,500.

Her firepower is primarily defensive and includes four surface-to-air missile systems and a range of guns, including the Phalanx CIWS radar-guided cannon system. Offensive capabilities are provided by the fleet of aircraft and support ships.

The ship was already close to the region around Israel after recently conducting operations near the strait of Sicily. She had been due to visit the French ports of Marseille and Toulon before the carrier strike group’s deployment to the Mediterranean.

F18 jets on the flight deck of the USS Gerald R. Ford, which is the world’s largest warship

The United States has pledged its full support for Israel after an unprecedented series of attacks by Hamas were launched on Saturday. Pictured: Israelis walk by a police station in Sderot that was destroyed during a battle after Hamas militants took over the building

Israeli soldier directs armored vehicles heading towards the southern border with the Gaza strip on October 8, 2023 in Sderot, Israel. The nation is preparing a full blown counteroffensive against the terrorist organization, including an invasion of Gaza

People stand among the rubble of a destroyed mosque during Israeli air strikes, in Gaza City on October 9, 2023

Other ships deployed as part of the strike group include:

USS Normandy guided-missile cruiser
USS Thomas Hudner destroyer
USS Ramage guided missile destroyer
USS Carney destroyer
USS Roosevelt destroyer

The capability of these ships ranges from anti-ship, anti-aircraft and land-targeting firepower to electronic warfare and surveillance.

USS Ramage, which is believed to have cost more than $1 billion and was launched in 1994, has Harpoon anti-ship missile launchers, cruise missiles and torpedos. The USS Thomas Hudner, which was built under a $663 million contract and launched in 2017, is also fitted with guns, missiles and torpedos.

The F-35 stealth fighter jets launched from the USS Gerald R. Ford can reach speeds of 1,200mph and can be fitted with guns, missiles and bombs. They have a range of around 1,200 miles.

Senior officials from the Pentagon and State Department briefed senators Sunday night, and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said they were assured that the United States was giving ‘everything they need’.

The Hamas attacks on Israel have been compared with the September 11 terror attacks on the US and the Japanese strike on Pearl Harbor in 1941.

The U.S. Navy Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy, pictured in 2018, is part of the carrier strike group that has been launched to the eastern Mediterranean

F-18 jet fighters are seen on the flight deck of USS Gerald R. Ford, on November 17, 2022 in Gosport, England

Israel has responded by ordering a ‘complete siege’ on the Gaza Strip, cutting off food and electricity as it prepares for a massive ground offensive.

The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have already retaliated with a series of massive air strikes on the Gaza Strip which had hit more than 1,000 Hamas targets by Monday morning. 

The attack by Hamas and Israel’s response have left more than 1,100 dead and thousands wounded on both sides.

The State Department said Monday that at least nine American citizens have been killed in the weekend Hamas attacks on Israel, raising the toll from four.

It said an undetermined number of American citizens remain missing and unaccounted for. On Sunday, an official said that number was fluid and had ranged from six to 12. It was not clear whether the missing had been taken hostage, were killed or were in hiding.

The State Department is in touch with families ‘and providing all appropriate consular assistance’, said spokesman Matthew Miller.

Source: | This article originally belongs to Dailymail.co.uk

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