Four-nation aircraft carrier drill underway in Persian Gulf

Frigates, destroyers and an aircraft carrier from four nations are currently underway in the Persian Gulf as part of the annual, multinational exercise Intrepid Sentinel 2019.

The multilateral exercise is designed to increase capability and interoperability between the four nations.

According to photos shared by the US Navy on January 15, aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis, French air defense destroyer FS Cassard (D 614) and Royal Australian Navy’s Anzac-class frigate HMAS Ballarat (FFH 155) are taking part in the drill.

In addition to the aircraft carrier, the US Navy is represented by destroyer USS Stockdale (DDG 106), and the guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG 53) who form the US 5th Fleet’s Task Force 50 (CTF 50).

The US Navy said the exercise is further joined by the Royal Navy but did not say which ships, if any, are representing the United Kingdom. The Royal Navy has a regular minehunter presence in the gulf supported by a Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship. Type 45 destroyer HMS Dragon is currently operating in the region and could be expected to join the high-profile maneuvers.

Last year’s edition of the exercise, which occurred in October, included US destroyer USS Shoup (DDG 86), French destroyer FS Jean Bart (D 615) and the Royal Navy frigate HMS Monmouth (F 235).

Intrepid Sentinel is taking place at a time when the US is considering a pullout from Syria. As pointed out by USNI News‘ Sam LaGrone, the US Navy currently has a large presence in the region with two amphibious ready groups – led by amphibious assault ships USS Essex and USS Kearsarge which are often referred to as “small-deck aircraft carriers” – and the Stennis carrier strike group on standby in the Middle East.

Prior to Intrepid Sentinel, Australian, French and US Navy ships conducted the SHAREM anti-submarine warfare exercise in the Arabian Sea between December 14 and 18.

In addition to FS Cassard and HMAS Ballarat, participating ships included guided-missile destroyers USS Stockdale (DDG 106) and USS Spruance (DDG 111), Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine USS Louisville (SSN 724), and the dry cargo and ammunition ship USNS Richard E. Byrd (T-AKE 4). Additionally, US P-3C Orion aircraft and a French Atlantique 2 maritime patrol aircraft supported the exercise from the air.

Photo: French air defense destroyer FS Cassard (D 614) sails in front of the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) in the Arabian Gulf, Jan. 15, 2019, during exercise Intrepid Sentinel. Photo: US Navy