Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta told sailors that the U.S. is committed to keeping 11 aircraft carriers despite budget pressures, as the military wishes to project sea power against Iran, The Associated Press reported.
According to the news outlet, Panetta told a crowd of 1,700 who were gathered in the hangar bay of the USS Enterprise that the ship would head to the Persian Gulf region to steam through the Strait of Hormuz.
“That’s what this carrier is all about,” Panetta said in his address to the sailors. “That’s the reason we maintain a presence in the Middle East. … We want them to know that we are fully prepared to deal with any contingency and it’s better for them to try to deal with us through diplomacy.”
NewsCore reported that the USS Abraham Lincoln passed through the symbolic waterway on Jan. 22, marking the first time a U.S. aircraft carrier has been through since Iran threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz earlier this month.
“USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) completed a regular and routine transit of the Strait of Hormuz, Jan. 22, to conduct maritime security operations as scheduled and in support of requirements set by the combatant commander,” according to a statement from Naval Forces Central Command.