Amid Israel-Hamas war, what do US aircraft carriers bring to the Middle East?

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The Pentagon has deployed two aircraft carriers -- and their supporting ships -- to the eastern Mediterranean since the attacks on Israel.

The ships are meant as a deterrent to ensure the conflict does not expand, but bring a significant amount of power to a region that already hosts a number of U.S. military ships, planes and troops.

Ford carrier

The Gerald R. Ford carrier, along with supporting ships, arrived in the eastern Mediterranean early last week.

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The Ford, which was commissioned in 2017, is the United States' newest aircraft carrier and the world's largest, with more than 5,000 sailors aboard.

The carrier, which includes a nuclear reactor, can hold more than 75 military aircraft, including fighter aircraft like the F-18 Super Hornet jets and the E-2 Hawkeye, which can act as an early warning system.

It has an arsenal of missiles, like the Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile, which is a medium-range, surface-to-air missiles used to counter drones and aircraft.

The rolling air frame missile on the Ford is used to target anti-ship missiles along with the Mk-15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon System which is used to fire armor piercing bullets.

The Ford also includes sophisticated radars that can help control air traffic and navigation.

The supporting ships, such as the Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser Normandy, Arleigh-Burke-class guided missile destroyers Thomas Hudner, Ramage, Carney, and Roosevelt. They include surface-to-air, surface-to-surface, and anti-submarine warfare capabilities.

Eisenhower carrier

The Pentagon directed the Dwight Eisenhower carrier strike group to move to the eastern Mediterranean. It will take between a week and a week and a half to reach the region.

The nuclear powered carrier, commissioned in 1977, first carried out operations during Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.

The carrier, also known as the “Ike,” has 5,000 sailors and can carry up to nine squadrons of aircraft, like fighter jets, helicopters and those capable of carrying out intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations.

Much like the Ford, the Ike carrier will be accompanied by other ships like the guided-missile cruiser Philippine Sea, guided-missile destroyers Gravely and the Mason.

The ships are focused on protecting themselves and the carrier and while they can carry out offensive operations, are not best suited to act as a missile defense system for Israel, which already has sophisticated systems in place.

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