(Trends Wide) — The US aircraft carrier USS Harry S Truman has been stationed this week in the northern Aegean Sea in part to ensure it can carry out flight operations from there if tensions escalate in the region due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, according to a US official familiar with the carrier situation.
The official did not reveal the exact location of the vessel, but noted that it is unusual to operate in the northernmost waters of the Aegean. The area is relatively restricted for aircraft carrier operations due to the number of small islands and heavy commercial shipping traffic.
“In the event of a further escalation,” the Navy could be ordered to send more combat air patrols into the Black Sea, the official said. “If Russia were to try to get through the Turkish Strait and Turkey asked for NATO support,” then the carrier’s planes could be used to conduct combat air patrol over the Black Sea and the Dardanelles Strait, according to the official.
Turkey administers the transit permit in the Black Sea for warships and there is concern about Russia’s future plans in that area.
US warplanes often conduct air patrols for deterrence purposes and this would not necessarily mean that the US is going to enter the conflict.
The Truman’s fighter jets are currently flying over Romania as part of NATO’s mission to demonstrate their presence and determination against Russian aggression.
The aircraft carrier is accompanied by the cruiser USS San Jacinto in the North Aegean. Five other US and one Norwegian warships are further south in the Aegean.
This development comes as the Pentagon acknowledges that it may have to reconsider and increase the long-term US military presence in Europe in the wake of Russian aggression.