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American Forces Press Service

Navy Looks to Bolster Capabilities in Persian Gulf

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 16, 2012 – The Strait of Hormuz is a critical global choke point and the U.S. Navy is ensuring it has all the capabilities needed for this transit point to remain open, Navy Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert, chief of naval operations, said today.

The admiral told the Defense Writers’ Group that the Navy is beefing up capabilities in the Persian Gulf, through which much of the world’s oil flows.

On one side of the strait are U.S. allies Oman and the United Arab Emirates. On the other side is Iran, whose leaders have threatened to shut down the strategic body of water.

Greenert spoke with Marine Corps Gen. James N. Mattis, commander of U.S. Central Command, soon after he became CNO in September 2010. Mattis said there were capabilities he needed more of, the admiral recalled.

Greenert went to the region and assessed what the Navy needed “to set the theater.” He was aboard the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis as it exited the Gulf through the Strait of Hormuz.

“I got a good look at the situation,” the admiral said. “A lot of the Iranian navy was out there … not really threatening, but being vigilant, and I thought through that.”

He met with Central Command and Navy leaders and laid out what more is needed in the region.

Greenert said he will double the number of mine warfare assets in the region, including mine sweepers -- going from four ships to eight -- and anti-mine aircraft in the form of four more CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopters.

The admiral also wants to increase the readiness of the forces in the region. “If I have four out there, how many are ready to go on any given day?” he said. “I wanted to make sure we are good on that and it includes spare parts, maintenance and contractor support.”

Greenert said the Navy also is sending more underwater unmanned autonomous mine neutralization units to the region. “They are effective, they work well and our British partners know how to use them as well,” he said.

For ships sailing through the strait, the Navy is providing more infrared and electro-optical capabilities. “We want to make sure that all the ships that deploy have the same configuration on board and the crews are proficient,” the admiral said.

Navy forces need more short-range defenses in the region, Greenert said. It is a constrained area, he noted, and while carrier battle groups have excellent long-range defenses, they need something more. “It’s like being in an alley with a rifle, and maybe what you need is a sawed-off shotgun,” he said.

The Navy is looking at placing Mark 38 Gatling guns aboard the escorts or the carriers themselves, the admiral said.

“We have five patrol craft. They are 200-foot vessels that are armed with small arms. There are relatively short-range missiles out there -- roughly four miles -- and they are pretty effective according to special operations command,” he said. “I want to look and see if they are compatible with our [patrol craft] … so they are a more effective, more lethal vessel.”

There are five patrol craft in the United States, three more coming back to the Navy from the Coast Guard and five in the Persian Gulf, Greenert said

“I want to move toward upgrading the PCs in the United States with Gatling guns and put them in Bahrain, ultimately, and we’ll have 10 [in the Gulf],” the admiral said.

Within a year, most of the capabilities will be in place in region, he said.

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