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Nimitz carrier group heads for Gulf

SAN DIEGO, April 2 (UPI) -- The nuclear aircraft carrier USS Nimitz was scheduled to leave San Diego Monday for service in the Persian Gulf.

The Nimitz, which operates out of North Island Naval Air Station, Coronado, Calif., is planned to retain the U.S. navy's current two-carrier battle group deployment in the Persian Gulf. It is expected to replace the USS Eisenhower and its battle group and remain on station with the USS John C. Stennis carrier battle group, the Navy Times reported Monday.

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"The pairing of the carriers is part of a beefed-up presence of U.S. and coalition naval forces "demonstrating the United States' ability to build regional stability and bring long-term stability to the region," the newspaper cited U.S. Naval Air Forces officials as saying in a statement released Friday.

The Navy Times also reported that the carrier and its battle group would be commanded by Navy Rear Adm. Terry Blake, and that among the forces at his disposal would be Carrier Air Wing 11, Destroyer Squadron 23, the guided-missile cruiser Princeton and guided-missile destroyers Higgins, Chafee, John Paul Jones and Pinckney.

"Nimitz's air wing includes Strike Fighter Squadrons 14, VFA-41 and VFA-81; Airborne Early Warning Squadron 117; Electronic Warfare Squadron 135; Carrier Logistics Support Squadron 30; and Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron 6," the newspaper said.

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"The deployment will be Nimitz's third to the Persian Gulf in four years," it said.

The dispatch of the Nimitz comes at a time of rising tensions between the United States and Iran over Iran's refusal to head United Nations Security Council resolutions to rein in its nuclear development program. The Nimitz was also dispatched as Iran continues to hold a group of British sailors captured from a British naval vessel patrolling in the Persian Gulf.

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