The destroyer Mahan is heading back home, leaving four destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean. Here, the ship leaves Norfolk, Va., in December. (MC1 Lolita Lewis / Navy)
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As lawmakers weigh a strike on Syria’s embattled regime, the Navy is keeping a host of offensive options available in the region, with one carrier strike group, four destroyers and two amphibious ships patrolling the region’s waters.
With those forces available, the Pentagon decided to release the destroyer Mahan, which is now headed back to its Norfolk, Va., home port after President Obama’s announcement Saturday that he would seek congressional authorization for any attack on Syria. With that move delaying any strike, officials decided to bring home Mahan, which has been deployed for eight months.
Four other destroyers — each capable of launching dozens of Tomahawk cruise missiles — remain in the Mediterranean, ready for mission tasking. They are the destroyers Barry, Ramage, Gravely and Stout.
Barry is not likely to be there too much longer, however. It deployed in February for a ballistic-missile defense deployment and is already turning over BMD duties with Stout, said one defense official on the condition of anonymity.
The amphibious transport dock San Antonio, with members of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, also remains in the Med.
Meanwhile, the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group — composed of the aircraft carrier Nimitz, cruiser Princeton, carrier Air Wing 11, and destroyers William P. Lawrence, Stockdale and Shoup — is steaming in the southern Red Sea but has not received any tasking, the defense official said. The amphibious assault ship Kearsarge was also reported to be in the Red Sea, available for missions.
The official did not say whether any attack or guided-missile submarines were patrolling the area. Strategists expect the Navy to station a guided-missile boat in the region, noting that these subs are capable of firing more than 100 Tomahawks — as many as four or five destroyers. The sub Florida proved these sub’s utility with 93 warshots against Libya in 2011’s Operation Odyssey Dawn.