July 24 (UPI) -- The strike group led by the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz entered the 5th Fleet area of operations on Friday as a Middle East presence, the Navy announced.
The Nimitz strike group replaces that of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, which will leave the Red Sea and head via the Suez Canal to the Mediterranean Sea after a six-month deployment in the area. The Nimitz strike group, known as Carrier Strike Group 11, includes the aircraft carrier and the nine squadrons of F/A-18E/F and F/A-18C fighter planes of Carrier Air Wing, the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Princeton, and Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Sterett and USS Ralph Johnson.
The 5th Fleet, headquartered with U.S.Naval Forces Central Command in Bahrain, is responsible for naval forces in the Persian Gulf, Red Sea, Arabian Sea, and parts of the Indian Ocean, an area of about 2.5 million square miles. It borders 20 countries and includes three chokepoints whose access is crucial for the flow of global commerce.
The United States has maintained an aircraft carrier in the region since 2019, after tensions with Iran accelerated. The USS Nimitz will be the fourth U.S. aircraft carrier in the region.
Prior to Friday, the USS Nimitz had been operating within the 7th Fleet's sphere of influence in the Indian Ocean, and completed exercises with the Indian Navy earlier this week. The two navies conducted multiple exercises a mutual live-fire exercise, an air defense exercise, flight operations and a farewell passing exercise.
"This was a unique opportunity to train and strengthen ties with the Indian Navy," said Capt. Peter Kim commanding officer of the USS Princeton. "We were able to achieve a high level of integration and cooperation while conducting many events to include gunnery and air defense exercises."