U.S. Admiral Jonathan W. Greenert spoke with reporters on March 16. He outlined how the U.S. Navy plans to counter Iran in the Persian Gulf and protect the Strait of Hormuz in case it is jeopardized. The L.A. Times reports:
Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert told reporters in Washington that the Navy will add four more mine-sweeping ships and four more CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopters with mine-detection capability. The Navy is also sending more underwater unmanned mine-neutralization units to the region.
Greenert said he plans to assign more patrol craft to the gulf, possibly armed with Mark 38 Gatling guns. The same kind of guns might be placed on ships that provide protection for U.S. aircraft carriers or perhaps on the carriers themselves.
U.S. ships have excellent long-range defenses but could use weapons for closer combat, Greenert said.
“It’s like being in an alley with a rifle and maybe what you need is a sawed-off shotgun,” he said.
Danger Room offers more details:
Add up the aircraft carriers, the Gatling-packing patrol craft, the Orions, the Sea Stallions and the minesweepers, and Greenert still isn’t finished with the surge. Then come the new, advanced torpedoes that can compensate for the “turpidity [and] particulate” drags of the Gulf waters. And the drone subs — or, as Greenert put it, “some underwater unmanned neutralization autonomous units” to help hunt mines. And every Navy ship that sails through the strait will come equipped with new, modular “infrared and electro-optical” visibility systems that clarify the foggy Gulf even at night. Extra spare parts and contractor crews will sustain the surge.
And if all that wasn’t enough, Greenert disclosed that he and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will soon ask themselves if the Navy needs to rotate more aircraft carriers to the Gulf. That decision, so important that it’s Panetta’s to make, will come “in the next few months.”
Since Britain withdrew from the Persian Gulf officially in 1971, the United States has gradually assumed responsibility for one of the world’s most important waterways. In his 1992 book Michael Palmer referred to the U.S. as “Guardians of the Gulf” in the wake of the Gulf War. The U.S. still deserves that title, however controversial, given the size and strength of the Fifth Fleet, which is based in Bahrain and responsible for Gulf maritime security. Admiral Greenert’s plans confirm America’s profile in the Middle East will remain substantial for years to come. Even with the occupation of Iraq finished, some 40,000 U.S. military personnel will remain on select bases and at sea in the Middle East, according to estimates by Defense Secretary Panetta.