The United States’ Nimitz carrier strike group has left Somalia after assisting the US military withdrawal from the Horn of Africa nation.
The Nimitz Carrier Strike Group arrived to support operations in Somalia on 21 December and provided operational and close air support to Joint Task Force – Quartz (JTF-Q) and Operation Octave Quartz (OOQ).
Supporting assets include the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68), embarked Carrier Air Wing 17, guided-missile cruisers USS Princeton (CG 59) and USS Philippine Sea (CG 58), and guided-missile destroyer USS Sterett (DDG 104). The Carrier Air Wing hosts more than 60 combat aircraft.
JTF-Q is responsible for the repositioning of US forces within East Africa through Operation Octave Quartz. The mission of OOQ is to relocate US Department of Defence forces in Somalia to other East Africa operating locations while maintaining pressure on violent extremists and supporting partner forces, the US military said.
“The Nimitz Carrier Strike Group brings incredible capability and allows us to maintain pressure against regional threats throughout Operation Octave Quartz,” said US Air Force Major General Dagvin Anderson, JTF-Q commander.
On 19 December, US Army General Stephen Townsend, US Africa Command commander, stated, “To be clear, the US is not withdrawing or disengaging from East Africa. We remain committed to helping our African partners build a more secure future. We also remain capable of striking Al-Shabaab at the time and place of our choosing—they should not test us.”
Other US military assets moved into the region to support the operation, including the Expeditionary Sea Base USS Hershel “Woody” Williams and the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group and embarked 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit.
The Makin Island ARG, commanded by Amphibious Squadron Three, is comprised of amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8) and amphibious transport dock ships USS San Diego (LPD 22) and USS Somerset (LPD 25).
The Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group and 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, a naval integration force of nearly 5 000 Sailors and Marines, project expeditionary striking power in the maritime, littoral, and inland environment by conducting amphibious operations.
Hershel “Woody” Williams began its inaugural deployment in July and has been operating in the US Sixth Fleet area of responsibility as part of the US Africa command mission. The Hershel “Woody” Williams provides the US a forward deployed presence in Africa as well as increased naval power through Navy and Marine Corps integrated operations, including Marine aviation and support to amphibious operations.
Air support included the AC-130W Stinger II aircraft, designed for close air support and air interdiction. The aircraft is a highly modified C-130H featuring improved navigation, threat detection, countermeasures, and communication suites. All AC-130W aircraft are modified with a precision strike package to perform the gunship mission.
Modifications to the AC-130W include stand-off precision guided munitions, one side-firing, trainable 30 mm gun capable of firing 200 rounds per minute, and one side-firing, trainable 105 mm cannon.
On 31 December the US Navy said the USS Nimitz and its carrier strike group would begin transiting from Africa to their West Coast homeports after sitting off the coast of Somalia to provide assistance as about 700 US military members were relocated from Somalia to other nearby countries in a reshuffling of personnel directed by the Trump administration.
However, three days later the United States ordered the supercarrier to remain in the Middle East until further notice amid tensions with Iran.