The Navy’s top officer said the U.S. would send four minesweeping ships along with additional mine-hunting helicopters to bolster U.S. defenses in the region
WASHINGTON—The U.S. military is doubling the number of minesweeping ships it keeps in the Persian Gulf, part of a buildup in the region amid tensions with Iran over its nuclear ambitions.
The Navy’s top officer said the U.S. would send four minesweeping ships along with additional mine-hunting helicopters to bolster U.S. defenses in the region.
“We are moving four more mine sweeps to the theater, that’ll make eight,” Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert said in Senate testimony on Thursday. “We are moving Airborne Mine Countermeasure helicopters—that’ll take us to eight in theater.”
The additional defensive equipment, Adm. Greenert added, was to ensure that “we are ready—that our folks are proficient, they’re confident and they’re good at what they do in case called upon.”
Tensions in recent months have increased over Iranian threats to close the Strait of Hormuz, a response to Western sanctions against Tehran imposed over its nuclear ambitions.
The U.S. and Israel both have said that a nuclear-armed Iran would be unacceptable, and have threatened military action. Iran denies it is trying to build atomic weapons.
As reported earlier this year by The Wall Street Journal, U.S. Central Command, the military headquarters that oversees the region, has launched an effort to beef up U.S. sea- and shore-based defenses in the region as a hedge against any possible military confrontation.
The U.S. military had already notified Congress of plans to position new mine-detection and mine-clearing assets in and around the strait, but the military hadn’t previously disclosed the full extent of the mine detection and clearing equipment being sent to the region.
The Navy has 14 Avenger-class mine sweeper ships. Four of those currently are based out of Bahrain; another four are stationed in Japan; and six have a home port in San Diego.
The specialized ships use sonar and video systems to detect mines in the water or on the seafloor.
The Navy also operates the MH-53E Sea Dragon, a heavy helicopter that skims over the water and carries sensors to spot mines.