The U.S. Navy Just Loaned NATO A Nimitz-Class Aircraft Carrier

U.S. Navy Aircraft Carrier George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group Operating With NATO: The United States’ commitment to NATO is as strong as ever, and last week, the U.S. Navy’s George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group went under NATO command at Oeiras, Portugal on Friday.

The Nimitz-class nuclear-powered supercarrier and her strike group are now the “centerpiece” of the U.S. Sixth Fleet (SIXTHFLT) and Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO (STRIKFORNATO) Vigilance Activity Neptune Strike 2022.2 (NEST 22.2).

NATO Gets an Aircraft Carrier

For NEST 22.2, SIXTHFLT conducted a transfer of authority (TOA) of the GHWBCSG to STRIKFORNATO. While under STRIKFORNATO command and control, the carrier and her strike group along with other allied units served to support Allied Joint Forces Command (JFC) Naples and JFC Brunssum joint operating areas (JOAs), and demonstrated Alliance cohesion and the ability to simultaneously operate throughout European waters.

NEST Series

The ongoing NEST 22.2 is the eighth phase of NATO’s long-planned Project Neptune series, building on previous phases of the project including Neptune Challenge in October and November 2021, Neptune Strike in January and February 2022, and Neptune Shield in May 2022. As in previous phases of Project Neptune, NEST 22.2 brings NATO commands throughout the Alliance together to plan and execute multi-domain real-world vigilance activities.

“The Neptune series is a tangible demonstration of the power and capability of the NATO Alliance in all domain operations,” said Vice Adm. Thomas Ishee, commander SIXTHFLT and STRIKFORNATO. “Neptune Strike 22.2 is a prime example of NATO’s ability to integrate high-end maritime warfare capabilities of an allied carrier strike group, ensuring our collective ability to deter and defend.”

Allied and partner nations that were scheduled to participate in NEST 22.2 included Albania, Canada, Croatia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States. This was the fourth Neptune Project exercise held in 20022, with all but one occurring after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in February.

The George H.W. Bush CSG includes flagship USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77), USS Leyte Gulf (CG-55), USS Delbert D. Black (DDG-119), USS Truxtun (DDG-103), USS Farragut (DDG-96) and USS Nitze (DDG-94). Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 7 is embarked on CVN-77.

Third Time’s the Charm?

This is also the third time that NATO had assumed command of a U.S. aircraft carrier strike group in 2022, while it is also only the third time since the end of the Cold War. NATO previously commanded the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group during two other iterations of Project Neptune.

Neptune Strike 2022.2 kicked off at the same time as the nuclear exercise Steadfast Noon, another NATO exercise in Europe, which involved aircraft from 14 different countries. That training has been taking place over Belgium, the United Kingdom, and the North Sea – and the U.S. had deployed B-52 bombers to the region. It won’t be the only such exercise involving nuclear-capable aircraft in Europe, as Moscow has announced it will conduct its own nuclear exercise this month.

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