A Navy Carrier Strike Group Is Deploying Without Its Broken-Down Aircraft Carrier

A sailor stands on the flight deck during flight operations aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) in the North Atlantic onSept. 18, 2018. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Anthony Flynn)
A sailor stands on the flight deck during flight operations aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) in the North Atlantic onSept. 18, 2018. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Anthony Flynn)

Ships from the Navy's Harry S. Truman Strike Group are deploying from the East Coast this week, but one thing is missing -- the aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman.

Four ships -- the guided-missile cruiser Normandy and guided-missile destroyers Lassen, Forrest Sherman and Farragut -- will form a surface action group (SAG) as the Truman continues undergoing repairs.

The Lassen left Florida on Thursday, according to a Navy news release. The other three ships are expected to depart in the coming days.

Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis, U.S. 2nd Fleet's commander, said in a statement that the deployment demonstrates the Navy's ability to maneuver and flex to accomplish its tasks on hand. But in an interview with USNI News, which first reported the unique deployment, Lewis also called the situation "unfortunate."

Related: 4-Star: Some Requests for Carriers in Middle East Are Getting Turned Down

"Nobody wanted that to happen, certainly," Lewis told USNI News. "But we're going to make this into what it really is, which is, we've still got a massive capability that's going forward on time, and that will be even more amplified when Truman comes out."

He added that it is the first time a surface action group has deployed from the East Coast in 13 years.

Ship deployments are "inherently flexible and able to provide presence and capabilities when and where needed," said Lt. Marycate Walsh, a 2nd Fleet spokeswoman.

"In this era of great power competition, we must innovate the way we employ our naval forces," she said. "The SAG deployment is one example of the way we are doing this.”

The Navy announced in August that the Truman had an electrical issue. In a statement, officials said the repairs are progressing and that all efforts are being made to deploy the carrier and air wing as soon as possible.

Military leaders have been grappling with not having enough aircraft carriers to meet requests from combatant commanders around the world. In March, Army Gen. Joseph Votel, then the head of U.S. Central Command, told members of Congress that he turned to allies to fill gaps when Navy flattops couldn't make it to the region.

Carrier strike groups in the past have been able to deploy if their flattop was not deployable by swapping in another ship. But, as USNI reported, an East Coast maintenance backlog has left the Navy without another carrier to replace the Truman.

A series of maintenance problems have also delayed the new carrier Gerald R. Ford from being deployable.

The surface action group that's leaving without the Truman will be led by the command staff of Destroyer Squadron 28, which includes detachments from the Florida-based Helicopter Maritime Squadron 72.

"We have an important mission ahead," Capt. Jennifer Couture, Destroyer Squadron 28's commodore, said in a statement. "... The SAG ships are ready and able to support a variety of exercises and missions with our partners and allies in support of maritime stability and security around the globe."

-- Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

Read more: Navy: Maintenance Backlogs Improving Despite Long Waits for Submarines

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