Aircraft flying from the Norfolk-based carrier USS Harry S. Truman have set a Navy record for the amount of bombs used in the fight against the Islamic State group, highlighting how U.S. military efforts in the region have intensified in recent months.
The Navy said aircraft assigned to Carrier Air Wing 7 had dropped 1,118 pieces of ordnance through Friday, surpassing a record of 1,085 pieces that was set by aircraft assigned to the USS Theodore Roosevelt in 2015. The jets involved are from F/A-18 squadrons based at Oceana Naval Air Station in Virginia Beach and Lemoore Naval Air Station in California.
"We had no idea we would be used to this extent and magnitude. We started dropping bombs Dec. 29 and here we are in mid-April still going strong," Cmdr. Jim McDonald, the Truman's weapons officer, said in a statement.
The Truman is in the fifth month of a planned seven-month deployment, and planes assigned to the aircraft carrier have flown about 400 fewer combat missions than those aboard the Roosevelt, which also is based in Norfolk. The Navy said Tuesday that jets assigned to the Truman might continue to make bombing runs before leaving the Middle East.
"Since our arrival in the Arabian Gulf, the Truman Strike Group has been conducting operations around the clock," Capt. Ryan B. Scholl, the Truman's commanding officer, said in a statement.
"This deployment is busier than any other I've seen. Every sailor is doing great work individually and executing as a combat team to reach this milestone. It is due to this dedication as a combined force that Truman is making a significant difference fighting for our country."
The Norfolk-based USS Dwight D. Eisenhower is scheduled to replace the Truman this summer.
The first jets launched from an aircraft carrier as part of Operation Inherent Resolve took flight Aug. 8, 2014, from the Norfolk-based USS George H.W. Bush.
Through April 4, U.S. and partner nation aircraft have flown an estimated 88,667 sorties in support of operations in Iraq and Syria, according to the Defense Department. Through April 12, the U.S. has conducted 8,825 strikes in those countries.