The current turmoil in the Middle East, roiling regimes from Yemen to Syria to Egypt to Iran, has most recently touched on the small Persian Gulf kingdom of Bahrain. And while all these countries present their own unique risks to United States interests, position and power in this perennially-tense region, Bahrain alone poses a direct threat to US assets and personnel in the form of the NavyÂ’s vital Fifth Fleet, based in BahrainÂ’s capital city, Manama.
The current turmoil in the Middle East, roiling regimes from Yemen to Syria to Egypt to Iran, has most recently touched on the small Persian Gulf kingdom of Bahrain. And while all these countries present their own unique risks to United States interests, position and power in this perennially-tense region, Bahrain alone poses a direct threat to US assets and personnel in the form of the Navy’s vital Fifth Fleet, based in Bahrain’s capital city, Manama.
In the spring of 1944, the 5th Fleet, under the command of Admiral Raymond Spruance, was established in coordination with the 3rd Fleet, under the command of Admiral William Halsey. The two admirals would alternate command of this joint Central Pacific Force (aka the "Big Blue Fleet"), giving their respective staffs time to efficiently coordinate sequential operations, and leading to confusion among the Japanese, who were unsure which fleet they were actually facing at any given time.
The 5th Fleet saw extensive action during the campaigns in the Philippine Sea, at Okinawa and at Iwo Jima. The 5th Fleet was inactivated after the end of WWII (January, 1947).
In the early ‘90s as the Gulf War escalated and US forces grew in the Persian Gulf region, the Navy’s local operations were controlled by the 7th Fleet, based in Japan. By 1995 this became unwieldy, and the 5th Fleet was reactivated, with operational responsibility for the Persian Gulf, Red Sea and Arabian Sea.
This reconstituted 5th Fleet originally consisted of an Aircraft Carrier Battle Group, an Amphibious Ready Group, various surface combatants, submarines, maritime reconnaissance and patrol aircraft, and logistics ships, and peaked in early 2003 (during major combat operations in Iraq) with 5 aircraft carriers, 6 amphibious assault ships, multiple support craft, and over 30 Royal Navy vessels under its command.
This number has drawn-down considerably since the end of major combat, but under the command of Vice Admiral Mark I. Fox, it still serves a vital role in the defense and support of US and Coalition forces in the Iraq and South Asia Theatres, including pirate patrolling/interdiction off the Horn of Africa.
Composition of the Fifth Fleet
o Task Force 50, Battle Force (Forward Deployed Carrier Strike Group—USS Carl Vinson, CVN 70)
o Task Force 51, Amphibious Force (Expeditionary Strike Group)
o Task Force 52, mining/demining force
o Task Force 53, Logistics Force/Sealift Logistics Command Central, Military Sealift Command
o Task Force 54, (aka Task Force 74) Submarine Force
o Task Force 55, Operation Iraqi Freedom: Constellation Carrier Strike Force
o Task Force 56, Navy Expeditionary Combat Command force, consisting of:
- CTG 56.1 Explosive Ordnance Disposal / Expeditionary Diving and Salvage
- CTG 56.2 Naval Construction Forces
- CTG 56.3 Expeditionary Logistics Support–Provides logistics support for USN/USA/USMC, cargo movement and customs throughout AOR
- CTG 56.4 Riverine–Provides protection of river waterways from illegal smuggling of weapons, drugs and people
- CTG 56.5 Maritime Expeditionary Security–Provides anti-Terrorism/Force Protection of land/port/littoral waterway operations for USN and Coalition assets, as well as point defense of strategic platforms and MSC vessels
- CTG 56.6 Expeditionary Combat Readiness–Provides administrative personnel support for all Individual Augmentees, and administers the Navy Individual Augmentee Combat Training Course and Warrior Transition Program
o Task Force 57, (aka Task Force 72) Patrol and Reconnaissance Force (P-3 and EP-3 Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Aircraft), consisting of:
- Task Group 57.1
- Task Group 57.2 (in October 2006, consisted of VP-8, VP-9, VP-16 and VP-46)
o Task Force 58, Maritime Surveillance Force (Northern Persian Gulf)
o Task Force 59, Expeditionary Force/Contingency Force (when required)