The United States Navy is positioning major vessels for relief efforts as Hurricane Irma bears down on the southeastern United States. Among those vessels is the Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72).
Naval Air Crewman (Helicopter) 2nd Class Brad Barbour, assigned to the "Night Dippers" of helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 5, scans the Atlantic Ocean for threats while standing plane guard. HSC-5 is assigned to the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) while underway conducting training after successful completion of its carrier incremental availability. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Shane Bryan/Released)
According to a report from USNI News, the Abraham Lincoln is being joined by the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock USS New York (LPD 21), and the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Farragut (DDG 99). The four vessels are carrying a number of helicopters, including CH-53E Super Stallions and MH-60R/S Seahawks.
Seaman Bobby Branch moves supplies and equipment aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) in preparation for potential humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Joe J. Cardona Gonzalez/Released)
The use of major Navy vessels for disaster relief is not new. The Iwo Jima has a number of these missions under her belt, including relief after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Other amphibious ships, including USS Wasp (LHD 1), USS Kearsarge (LHD 3), and the Harpers Ferry-class landing dock ship USS Oak Hill (LSD 51), are aiding victims or Irma in the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Caribbean.
Boatswain's Mate 2nd Class Michael Cundiff directs vehicles in the well deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) in preparation for potential humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations. Iwo Jima brings diverse capabilities and is positioned in the region in order to respond. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Joe J. Cardona Gonzalez/Released)
For deployments, Wasp-class landing ships usually support as many as 2,000 Marines for six months. The Abraham Lincoln is capable of supporting an air wing of roughly 2,500 personnel for a six-month deployment as well. That takes a lot of supplies – more than enough for the initial stages of disaster relief after a hurricane or earthquake.
A GOES satellite image taken Sept. 8, 2017 at 9:45 a.m. EST shows Hurricane Irma, center, in the Caribbean Sea, Hurricane Jose, right, in the Atlantic Ocean, and Hurricane Katia in the Gulf of Mexico. Hurricane Irma is a Category 4 hurricane with sustained winds of 155 mph and is approximately 500 miles southeast of Miami, moving west-northwest at 16 mph. Hurricane warnings have been issued for South Florida, as the storm is expected to make landfall in Florida. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of the NRL/Released)
The amphibious assault ships are there not only because they can support helicopters, but also because they have some of the best medical facilities afloat. They also can help deliver supplies to shore using air-cushion landing craft. The carrier provides solid medical facilities as well, while the SPY-1 radars on USS Farragut can be helpful in controlling air traffic until land-based air control in a region can be restored.
"The top priority of the federal government, as we work together to support civil authorities, is to minimize suffering and protecting the lives and safety of those affected by Hurricane Irma," a Navy release stated.