A massive armada of nuclear warships has been deployed to Syria in one of the biggest military buildups since the 2003 Iraq war.
USS Harry S Truman, carrying 90 aircraft and escorted by five strike group destroyers and cruisers is en route to the Middle East, it has emerged.
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Dailymail.co.uk reports: A further four destroyers are believed to be in or near the Mediterranean already, including the Donald Cook, Porter, Carney and Laboon along with two nuclear-powered submarines, Georgia and John Warner.
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The deployment of 12 US warships on one mission is a huge concentration of fire power, one of the biggest since six aircraft carriers supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
It comes amid heightened tensions as Donald Trump continues to consider launching airstrikes on Syria in retaliation for a chemical gas attack in a rebel-held town on Saturday. Russia has threatened to take down any missiles launched at the Assad regime’s forces using its fearsome S-400 defence system.
Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad has reportedly moved his military assets to Russian bases in the country in the hope that the US and its allies would be reluctant to launch strikes anywhere near Vladimir Putin’s forces.
On Thursday, the White House said that a ‘final decision’ had not been made on Syria.
Donald Trump had said earlier in the day that Americans won’t have to wait long for a response to Saturday’s horrifying chemical weapons attack on a rebel-held town that left at least 40 dead and others gasping for air.
But at least two of his top advisers couldn’t agree on whether there’s sufficient proof to blame the atrocity on dictator Bashar al-Assad’s government, leaving the possibility of a retaliatory attack an open-ended question.
America’s allies and adversaries alike were awaiting a signal from the White House about whether Trump will follow through on his warning that missiles ‘will be coming,’ potentially putting Russian troops in harm’s way.
At close of business, the White House said that Trump had just concluded a meeting with his national security team and would be speaking again later to the heads of government in France and the U.K.
‘No final decision has been made,’ press secretary Sarah Sanders said. ‘We are continuing to asses intelligence and are engaged in conversations with our partners and allies.’
Trump suggested that he’d have an answer in hours, telling reporters, ‘It’s too bad that the world puts us in a position like that, but as I said this morning we’ve done a great job with ISIS. We have just absolutely decimated ISIS. But now we have to make some further decisions, so they’ll be made fairly soon.’
But on Capitol Hill, Defense Secretary James Mattis told the House Armed Services Committee that the U.S. hasn’t reached any conclusions.
‘I believe there was a chemical attack,’ Mattis told lawmakers, ‘and we are looking for the actual evidence.’ He said he wanted to see inspectors on the ground in Syria ‘within the week.’
‘As each day goes by – as you know, it is a non-persistent gas, so it becomes more and more difficult to confirm it.’
The USS Harry S Truman and its support ships were due to leave Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia on Wednesday.
It is accompanied by the cruiser USS Normandy and destroyers USS Farragut, USS Forrest Sherman, USS Bulkeley and USS Arleigh Burke.
Also among the strike group’s ships is the German frigate FGS Hessen, a state-of-the-art vessel specialising in air defense.
US Navy officials said the Hessen is the only type of ship in the Western world with three kinds of surface-to-air missiles. Its radar has a detection range of more than 200 nautical miles for air targets.
Already in position is the USS Donald Cook, an American destroyer equipped with up to 60 Tomahawk land attack missiles.