At any given time the United States has an aircraft carrier deployed somewhere around the world, usually in a hot spot such as the Persian Gulf or the Western Pacific.
But for the first week of this year, for the first time since World War II, no U.S. aircraft carriers were deployed, anywhere, a Navy spokesman confirmed.
The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower had been in the Persian Gulf, contributing airpower to the counter-Islamic State campaign in Iraq and Syria. But it returned to its homeport of Norfolk, Va., on Dec. 30, after a seven-month deployment. And none of the Navy's nine other aircraft carriers was on deployment.
Which is why it appears Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook took the unusual step Thursday of announcing the "routine" deployment of the USS Carl Vinson to the Western Pacific.
The San Diego-based carrier strike group along with its escort ships "will conduct bilateral exercises in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, to include anti-submarine warfare, maneuvering drills, gunnery exercises, and visit board, search and seizure subject-matter expert exchanges," according to Cook.
The unusual gap in carrier presence is due in part to longer-than-expected maintenance for the USS George H.W. Bush, which was supposed to take eight months, but ended up taking 13 months. The Navy blamed the delay on increased wear and tear that resulted from an extended deployment. If it had left when it was supposed to, it would have relieved the Eisenhower in the Gulf.