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No U.S. capital ship in Middle East after Essex group's departure

The Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex transited the Indian Ocean in recent days, ahead of exercises in the Philippine Sea, the U.S. Navy said. Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Bradley J. Gee/U.S. Navy
The Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex transited the Indian Ocean in recent days, ahead of exercises in the Philippine Sea, the U.S. Navy said. Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Bradley J. Gee/U.S. Navy

Jan. 11 (UPI) -- The Middle East has no U.S. capital ship since the three-ship Essex Amphibious Ready Group and the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit recently left the area.

After deploying on Aug. 12 and operating in the Middle East region since late September, the Essex ARG, and the 11th MEU left the region last week, according to USNI News' Fleet and Marine Tracker.

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The San Diego-based Essex ARG relieved the Iwo Jima ARG and the 24th MEU, which supported troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The USS Essex is now operating in the Philippine Sea, along with the USS Portland, and amphibious dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Navy said Tuesday on Twitter.

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The departure of the Essex from the Middle East, also leaves the U.S. 5th Fleet without a carrier strike group or ARG -- or capital ship -- for the first time since late November, according to USNI.

Capital ships, often those regarded as primary warships, tend to be larger vessels such as aircraft carriers and landing helicopter docks, like the Essex.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered the USS Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group to remain in the Mediterranean Sea late last month to reassure European allies, instead of its making its scheduled journey to the Middle East amid tensions between Ukraine and Russia.

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The last U.S. carrier in the 5th Fleet was the Japan-based USS Ronald Reagan.

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