Nine U.S. warships carrying 17,000 personnel entered the Gulf on Wednesday in a show of force off Iran's coast that navy officials said was the largest assembly of ships since the 2003 Iraq invasion. U.S. Navy officials said Iran had not been notified of plans to sail the ships, which include two aircraft carriers, through the Straits of Hormuz, Reuters reported.
Rear Admiral Kevin Quinn, who is leading the group, said the ships would conduct exercises as part of a long-planned attempt to reassure regional allies of U.S. commitment to Gulf security.
"There's always the threat of any state or non state actor that might decide to close one of the international straits, and the biggest one is the Straits of Hormuz," he told reporters on board the USS John C. Stennis aircraft carrier. "What is special about this is that you have two strike groups. Everybody will see us because it is in daylight."
Most U.S. ships pass through the straits at night so as not to attract attention. According to navy officials, the decision to send a second aircraft carrier was made at the last minute. The group of ships, carrying about 140 aircraft scheduled to participate in the exercises that will take place over the next few weeks, crossed at roughly 0355 GMT.