The American aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman has been in the northern Aegean Sea this week in part to ensure it can conduct flight operations from there if tensions escalate in the region due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to a US official familiar with the carrier’s current task.
The official did not disclose the exact location of the ship, but noted it is not routine to operate in the Aegean’s northernmost waters. The area is relatively confined for carrier operations due to the number of small islands and heavy commercial maritime traffic.
“In the event of further escalation,” the Navy could be told to project more fighter jet air patrols into the Black Sea, the official said. “If Russia sought to run the Turkish strait and Turkey asked for NATO support,” then the carrier aircraft could be used for combat air patrols over the Black Sea and Strait of Dardanelles, according to the official.
Turkey administers passage permission to transit into the Black Sea for warships, and there is concern about Russia’s future plans there. US fighter aircraft often conduct air patrols for deterrence, and it would not necessarily signal the US is entering conflict.
The Truman’s fighter jets are currently flying over Romania as part of the NATO mission to demonstrate presence and resolve against Russian aggression.
The carrier is accompanied by the cruiser USS San Jacinto in the North Aegean. Five other US warships and a Norwegian surface combatant are further south in the Aegean.
This development comes as the Pentagon is also acknowledging it may have to reconsider and increase the long-term US military presence in Europe in the wake of Russia’s aggression.