March 1 (UPI) -- A large flight operations exercise, led by the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, is underway near the Canary Islands, the U.S. Navy announced.
The drills, off the West African coast, in the 6th Fleet area of operations, are meant to "support maritime security operations in international waters alongside our allies and partners," a Navy statement on Sunday said, but mentioned only Navy assets as participants.
Over 5,000 sailors, assigned to the ships and to aircraft units, are involved in the exercises.
"Conducting flight operations is an important part of maintaining readiness and also sends a clear signal of our capability, capacity and, if required, lethality," Rear Admiral Scott Robertson, commander of Carrier Strike Group Two, said in the statement.
Naval vessels involved include the ships of the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Force, including the flagship aircraft carrier, guided-missile cruisers USS Monterey and the guided-missile destroyers USS Mitscher, USS Laboon, USS Mahan, USS Porter, and USS Thomas Hudner.
One element of the strike group, the cruiser USS Vella Gulf, returned to its homeport of Norfolk, Va., last week to address a fuel oil leak issue.
In February, all personnel aboard the aircraft carrier received COVID-19 vaccines while in port in Norfolk.
In August 2020, the ship returned to the United States after a seven-month deployment involving over 160 days at sea due to pandemic restrictions.