WASHINGTON, July 16 (UPI) -- The U.S. Navy will send the USS John C Stennis and its strike group four months early and shift its destination to the U.S. Central Command, the Pentagon said.
The deployment of Stennis late this summer is in response to Central Command's need for an extended carrier presence, Defense Department press secretary George Little said Monday in a release.
The move affects 5,500 sailors aboard the Stennis and the Aegis cruiser USS Mobile Bay.
"The decision will help support existing naval force requirements in the Middle East and reduce the gap caused by the upcoming departure of the USS Enterprise Strike Group," Little said. "It is in keeping with our long-standing commitments to the region."
Little said the sped-up deployment to the Central Command area of responsibility isn't to respond to a specific threat.
"In keeping with Centcom's requirements, this is a very important region for our defense strategy. We've had a presence in the region for decades and we have a range of interests that this extension of our capabilities will support," Little said.
U.S. military is "always mindful" about the issues Iran poses, but "this is not a decision based solely" on Iran,Little said.
The USS Enterprise and USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike groups are deployed to U.S. Central Command, the Pentagon said. The USS Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group is due to relieve the Lincoln group shortly and the Stennis group will relieve Enterprise.