On April 8, the United States Navy announced that it had deployed a nuclear-powered guided-missile submarine in the Middle East in support of the Bahrain-based 5th Fleet.
Commander Timothy Hawkins, a spokesman for the fleet, said in a statement that USS Florida entered the region on April 6 and began transiting the Suez Canal on April 7. The Navy released a photo of the Ohio-class submarine as it transited the Suez Canal on its way to the Persian Gulf.
“It is capable of carrying up to 154 Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles and is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet to help ensure regional maritime security and stability,” the spokesman said.
Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles can be launched from ships or submarines and have a range of up to 2,500 kilometers.
The Pentagon usually does not disclose the locations of its submarines while they are at sea. The deployment was announced a day after the U.S. 5th Fleet and its partners released a warning advising all ships to proceed with caution following escalating tensions between Iran.
Citing two informed Western intelligence officials, The New York Times reported that Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Aerospace Force was preparing a drone attack against Israeli-owned civilian merchant vessels sailing in the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea.
Two military advisers of the guards were killed in recent Israeli strikes on Syria. Armed factions backed by Iran also engaged in a deadly confrontation with U.S. forces in the northeastern region of the war-torn country a few weeks ago. Tehran vowed to take revenge.
U.S. officials told the New York-based newspaper that the deployment of USS Florida was meant to deter Iran and maintain the stability of one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.
The 5th Fleet patrols the crucial Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which 20% of all oil transits. Its operations cover the Bab el-Mandeb Strait off Yemen and the Red Sea stretching up to the Egyptian Suez Canal.
The deployment of USS Florida is the latest in a series of measures by Washington meant to intimidate Iran and its allies in the Middle East. Late in March, the Pentagon decided to keep the George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group in the Mediterranean Sea as well as to deploy an squadron of A-10 attack aircraft in the region.