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GreekReporter.comGreek NewsU.S., French Naval Forces in Massive Show of Force Off Greece

U.S., French Naval Forces in Massive Show of Force Off Greece

U.S. French aircraft carriers Greece
The aircraft carrier the USS Harry Truman was seen sailing in the Northern Aegean Sea last week. Credit: Facebook/Bela Chambers/USS Harry Truman

US and French naval forces, led by two aircraft carriers, are conducting drills in the Aegean Sea off Greece in the midst of the military conflict in Ukraine.

The presence of the aircraft carriers off Greece is intended to monitor Russian naval forces in the eastern Mediterranean and conduct reconnaissance missions on behalf of NATO allies in the Balkans.

The USS Harry Truman has been conducting exercises in the northern Aegean Sea and the Ionian Sea since the beginning of March and is expected to dock at Souda Bay in Crete by March 25, while the French ship Charles de Gaulle is currently south of Crete and is expected to moor at the port of Piraeus, south of Athens.

The Truman, with a length of 1,092 feet (333 meters) can carry up to 90 fighter jets. It is escorted by six warships, a nuclear-powered submarine, and the USS Arleigh Burke-class destroyer Bainbridge.

The massive aircraft carrier contains 2,500 cabins that can hold 6,500 people. The vessel was the largest ever built until the USS Gerald Ford was launched in 2017.

The Truman reportedly sails with electronic warfare aircraft called F-18 Growlers, which have carried out reconnaissance missions for military operations in Ukraine and the Black Sea, flying in the NATO airspace of Romania and Bulgaria.

The Boeing EA-18G Growler is an American carrier-based electronic warfare aircraft, a specialized version of the two-seat F/A-18F Super Hornet.

The French aircraft carrier operates off Crete, Greece

The 260-meter (853 foot) long French aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle is sailing south of Crete with 22 Rafale fighters on board, accompanied by two Hawkeye surveillance aircraft and three helicopters.

The French aircraft carrier is escorted by three frigates, a supply vessel, and a nuclear submarine and the Greek frigate “Hydra” along with the submarine “Papanikolis.”


The U.S. sends tankers to Greece

Last week the U.S. confirmed it is also sending a number of KC-135 tankers to Greece.  Pentagon spokesman John Kirby explained that the tankers would “provide additional aerial refueling support to the commander of U.S. European Command,” adding that there has been no change to President Biden’s decision against deploying U.S. forces to Ukraine.

The tankers are part of a new deployment of 500 U.S. troops aimed at bolstering NATO’s eastern flank.

The KC-135 Stratotankers will deploy to Souda Bay, Greece, and the remaining U.S. forces will head to Poland, Germany, and Romania. Kirby said that the troops in Poland and Romania will “provide additional command and control for U.S. European Command flight operations.”

These tankers could, for instance, enable a land-launched F-35A to double its combat radius, an article in the National Interest explains.

The presence of range-extending tankers means that U.S. and NATO attack aircraft would not need to be positioned further than Germany to operate in Ukrainian airspace. This would make enemy forces operating in Eastern Europe much more vulnerable to U.S. and NATO air attacks, should that somehow become necessary, it adds.

 U.S. B-52 strategic bombers train with Greece’s Air Force

US Strategic Task Force type B-52 bombers conducted a training flight accompanied by two Hellenic F-16 fighter jets in the Athens FIR earlier in March, sending a message to Russia. The exercise was carried out in the context of the “Onyx Hook” operation.

As announced, the joint training was conducted at the request of USEUCOM (US European Command). The Greek F-16s took on the role of intercepting and escorting the B-52s inside the Athens FIR after their entry from the Sofia FIR, with a route over Thrace, the Northern Sporades, Central Greece, and the Peloponnese.


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