The aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and its escort ship, the guided-missile cruiser USS San Jacinto, set a record for the longest number of days consecutively operating at sea by a U.S. Navy vessel. As of June 25, 2020, the warships have been at sea for 161 days.
Both ships departed their homeport of Norfolk, Virginia, on January 17, for the strike group’s Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX) and follow-on deployment to the U.S. 6th and 5th Fleet areas of operation. After the departure, the Navy determined to keep the ships at sea to minimize the crews’ exposure to the coronavirus.
The Navy noted that records have not been maintained since its formation, but it believes the previous modern-day record was for 160 days was set in February 2002 by the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt on her post-9/11 response. Previously the Eisenhower had been underway for 152 days during the Iran hostage crisis in 1980.
“Our ships remain undeterred in the face of adversity and this monumental feat will only make our crews and the Navy stronger,” said Capt. Kyle Higgins, Ike’s commanding officer. “I’m so proud of the young men and women I see on the deck plates each and every day. Their dedication to the mission is what makes our Navy the greatest fighting force the world has ever seen.”
Both the Eisenhower and the San Jacinto’s crews have maintained mission readiness and effectiveness despite restrictions related to COVID-19. The ships also participated in a “rest & reset” period at sea, coming off-station for a short period of time to allow the crew to relax and reenergize with morale events such as swim calls and steel beach picnics.
“In March, I suspended liberty port visits to reduce the chance of spreading and contracting the virus across the fleet,” said Vice Adm. Jim Malloy, commander U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. 5th Fleet, and Combined Maritime. “Throughout this pandemic, maintaining the fleet’s warfighting readiness while ensuring the safety and well-being of our sailors has been my top priority.”
USS San Jacinto transits the Arabian Sea, May 20, 2020 — U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Aaron Bewkes
“San Jacinto and Eisenhower have proven their ability to remain a flexible, adaptable and persistent force while staying on station in the Arabian Sea,” said Captain Edward Crossman, commanding officer of San Jacinto. “Both crews have been resupplying and refueling, performing repairs and upkeep, and maintaining overall readiness while continuously at sea. The two ships have spent the last five months conducting operations and exercises with foreign partners, other U.S. service branches, and U.S Navy ships in the region.”
The Eisenhower and San Jacinto remain at sea, deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operation in support of naval operations to ensure maritime stability and security in the Central Region, connecting the Mediterranean and Pacific through the Western Indian Ocean and three critical chokepoints for the free flow of global commerce.