U.S. amphibious assault ship to be moved into position to support Noncombatant Evacuation Operation in Libya?

“Where are the carriers?” is believed to be the first question a U.S. President asks his closer advisors each time America has to deal with a crisis.

In this case, the attack on the Benghazi consulate, that cost the life of the U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three others, has compelled the Pentagon to send a Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team (FAST), an expeditionary group of skilled and very well equipped Marines capable to reinforce U.S. security forces at embassies and other key installations around the world.

Along with the FAST team, reportedly moving from Rota, Spain, drones, and the USS Laboon and USS McFaul destroyers, equipped with Tomahawk cruise missiles, sailing towards the Libyan coasts, it is quite likely that even an amphibious ship with a MEU (Marine Expeditionary Unit), capable to perform NEOs (Noncombatant Evacuation Operations), will be dispatched in the Mediterranean sea in preparation for the possible evacuation of the U.S. diplomatic mission.

Image credit: U.S. Marine Corps

A MEU is made of 2,200 Marines and sailors deployed as a Marine air-ground task force (MAGTF) that includes a Marine infantry battalion equipped with tanks, amphibious assault vehicles, light artillery as well as Mv-22B Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, AV-8B Harrier combat planes, UH-1N Huey and AH-1Y Cobra helicopters.

The nearest such MEUs is the 24th Marine Expeditionary unit, with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 261 operating on board the LHD-7 “Iwo Jima” a Wasp-class amphibious assault ship.

Although the “big deck amphibious warfare ships” is deployed as “a theater reserve force for U.S. Central Command and is providing support for maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet area of responsibility” the Iwo Jima is probably already moving into position.

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.