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Fifth Fleet
Fifth Fleet emblem
Active 26 April 1944–January 1947
1 July 1995 – present
Country United States of America
Branch United States Navy
Part of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command
U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM)
Garrison/HQ Naval Support Activity Bahrain
Vice Admiral John W. Miller
Admiral Raymond A. Spruance

The Fifth Fleet of the United States Navy is responsible for naval forces in the Persian Gulf, Red Sea, Arabian Sea, and coast off East Africa as far south as Kenya. It shares a commander and headquarters with U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT). As of 2015, the commander of the 5th Fleet is Vice Admiral John W. Miller.[1] Fifth Fleet/NAVCENT is a component command of, and reports to, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM).


The Fifth Fleet was initially established on 26 April 1944 from Central Pacific Force under the command of Admiral Raymond Spruance. The ships of the Fifth Fleet also formed the basis of the Third Fleet, which was the designation of the "Big Blue Fleet" when under the command of Admiral William F. Halsey, Jr..[N 1] Spruance and Halsey would alternate command of the fleet for major operations, allowing the other admiral and his staff time to prepare for the subsequent one. A secondary benefit was confusing the Japanese into thinking that they were actually two separate fleets as the fleet designation flipped back and forth. Following the end of World War II, the 5th Fleet was deactivated.

Prior to the first Gulf War in 1990-1991, U.S. naval operations in the Persian Gulf region were directed by the Commander, Middle Eastern Force (COMMIDEASTFOR). Since this organization was considered insufficient to manage large scale combat operations during the Gulf War, the United States Seventh Fleet — primarily responsible for the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean and normally based in Japan — was given the temporary task of managing the force during the period. However, no numbered fleet existed permanently within the USCENTCOM area of responsibility. By July 1995, a new numbered fleet was deemed necessary.[3] After a 48-year hiatus, the U.S. 5th Fleet was reactivated, replacing COMMIDEASTFOR, and it now directs operations in the Persian Gulf, Red Sea, and Arabian Sea. Its headquarters are at NSA Bahrain located in Manama, Bahrain.

U.S. Navy, Royal Navy, and Royal Australian Navy destroyers on joint operations in the Persian Gulf.

For the early years of its existence, its forces normally consisted of an Aircraft Carrier Battle Group (CVBG), an Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), surface combatants, submarines, maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft, and logistics ships. However, with the War on Terrorism, the naval strategy of the U.S. has changed. The regular deployments of the Cold War are now a thing of the past. Consequently, the policy of always maintaining a certain number of ships in various parts of the world is also over. However, its usual configuration now includes a Carrier Strike Group, Amphibious Ready Group or Expeditionary Strike Group, and other ships and aircraft with almost 15,000 people serving afloat and 1,000 support personnel ashore.[4]

Carrier Group Three formed the core of the naval power during the initial phase of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001. Commander, Carrier Group Three (Rear Admiral Thomas E. Zelibor) arrived in the Arabian Sea on 12 September 2001 and was subsequently designated Commander Task Force 50 (CTF 50), commanding multiple carrier strike groups and coalition forces. The Task Force conducted strikes against Al Quida and Taliban forces in Afghanistan. Task Force 50 comprised over 59 ships from six nations including six aircraft carriers, stretching over 800 nautical miles.[5]

Fifth Fleet forces peaked in early 2003, when five USN aircraft carriers (CV and CVNs), six USN amphibious assault ships (LHAs and LHDs) and their embarked USMC air ground combat elements, their escorting and supply vessels, and over 30 Royal Navy vessels were under its command. In the Persian Gulf, United States Coast Guard surface ships attached to the Fifth Fleet were under the command of Destroyer Squadron 50 (CDS-50) commanded by Captain Peterson of the Navy.[6] Boutwell, Walnut, and the four patrol boats were part of this group. The shore detachments, MCSD and PATFOR SWA also operated under the command of CDS-50. For actual operations, the Coast Guard forces were part of two different task forces. The surface units were part of Task Force 55 (CTF-55). Command of CTF-55 actually shifted during OIF. Initially, Rear Admiral Costello, Commander of the Constellation Battle Group, commanded CTF-55. The surface forces were designated Task Group 55.1 (TG-55.1) with CDS-50 as the task group commander. In mid-April, the Constellation Battle Group left the NAG and CDS-50 became the staff commanding TF-55 for the remainder of OIF major combat operations. In the aftermath of the fall of Baghdad in April 2003, the very large force of ships was quickly drawn down. On 3 January 2012, following the end of the ten-day Velayat 90 naval maneuvers by the Iranian Navy in the Strait of Hormuz, the Iranian Army chief of staff, General Ataollah Salehi, was quoted by the state news agency IRNA as warning the United States to not deploy the Stennis back to the Persian Gulf.[7][8] On 4 January 2011, Fars News Agency reported that a bill was being prepared for the Iranian Parliament to bar foreign naval vessels from entering the Persian Gulf unless they receive permission from the Iranian navy, with Iranian lawmaker Nader Qazipour noting: "If the military vessels and warships of any country want to pass via the Strait of Hormuz without coordination and permission of Iran’s navy forces, they should be stopped by the Iranian armed forces."[9] Also, Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi reiterated that "transnational forces" have no place in the Persian Gulf region.[9] On 6 January 2012, armed Iranian speedboats reportedly harassed two U.S. naval vessels, the amphibious transport dock New Orleans and the Coast Guard cutter Adak, as they transited the Strait of Hormuz into the Persian Gulf.[10] On 9 January 2012, Carrier Strike Group One, led by the carrier Carl Vinson, joined Carrier Strike Group Three in the North Arabian Sea, with Carrier Strike Group Nine, led by the carrier Abraham Lincoln, en route to the Arabian Sea amid rising tension between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran over U.S. naval access to the Strait of Hormuz.[11] On 19 January 2012, Carrier Strike Group Nine entered the U.S. Fifth Fleet's area of responsibility and relieved Carrier Strike Group Three.[12] Also on that date, Ambassador of Iran to the United Nations Mohammad Khazaee reportedly stated in a recent interview on the Charlie Rose program that Iran would consider closing the Strait of Hormuz if Iran’s security was endangered.[13]

For December 2012 and January 2013, Carrier Strike Group Three was the only carrier strike group operating with the U.S. Fifth Fleet until relieved by the Carrier Strike Group Ten. This is because of the temporary two-month rotation of the Carrier Strike Group Eight back to the United States in order to resurface the flight deck of that group's flagship, the carrier Eisenhower.[14] Eisenhower, Carrier Air Wing Seven, and the guided-missile cruiser Hue City returned to base on 19 December 2012, and the guided missile destroyers Jason Dunham, Farragut, and Winston S. Churchill were slated to return to base in March 2013.[15]


The Fifth Fleet's area of responsibility, 2009.

  • Task Force 50, Battle Force (~1 x Forward Deployed Carrier Strike Group)
  • Task Force 51, Amphibious Force (~1 x Expeditionary Strike Group)/Expeditionary Strike Group Five/TF 59 (Manama, Bahrain)
  • Task Force 52, mining/demining force
  • Task Force 53, Logistics Force[16]/Sealift Logistics Command Central, Military Sealift Command (MSC replenishment ships plus USN MH-53E Sea Stallion helicopters and C-130 Hercules, C-9 Skytrain II and/or C-40 Clipper aircraft)
  • Task Force 54, (dual-hatted as Task Force 74) Submarine Force
  • Task Force 55, Operation Iraqi Freedom: :USS Constellation (CV-64) Carrier Strike Force; June 2003: mine clearing force, including elements from the U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program
  • Task Force 56, Navy Expeditionary Combat Command force.[17]
    • CTG 56.1 Explosive Ordnance Disposal / Expeditionary Diving and Salvage[18]
    • 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 riverineprotection of 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 "Sailor support" for all Individual Augmentees, and administers the Navy Individual Augmentee Combat Training Course and Warrior Transition Program
  • Task Force 57, (dual-hatted as Task Force 72) Patrol and Reconnaissance Force (P-3 and EP-3 Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Aircraft)
    • Task Group 57.1 - Lockheed EP-3, VQ-1[19]
    • Task Group 57.2 - in October 2006, consisted of VP-8, VP-9, VP-16, and VP-46.[20]
    • Note that as of 13 October 2011, Officer in Charge, Patrol and Reconnaissance Force Fifth Fleet Det Bahrain (COMPATRECONFORFIFTHFLT DET BAHRAIN (44468)) has been modified to Commander, Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing FIVE SEVEN.[21]
  • Task Force 58, Maritime Surveillance Force (Northern Persian Gulf)
  • Task Force 59, Expeditionary Force/Contingency Force (when required, e.g. July–August 2006 Lebanon evacuation operation, in conjunction with Joint Task Force Lebanon) In February 2007 it was conducting Maritime Security Operations[22] and as of 2 Nov. 2007, it was running a crisis management exercise.

Coalition Forces Maritime Component Command

Together with Naval Forces Central Command, Fifth Fleet oversees five naval task forces monitoring maritime activity:

  • Combined Task Force 158 in the North Persian Gulf that protects the Iraqi oil terminals of ABOT and KAAOT; now CTF IM [23]
  • Combined Task Force 150 that patrols from Hormuz, halfway across the Arabia Sea, South as far as the Seychelles, through the Gulf of Aden, up through the strait between Djibouti and Yemen known as the Bab Al Mandeb and into the Red Sea and, finally, around the Horn of Africa;
  • Combined Task Force 152 patrols the Persian Gulf from the northern end where area of responsibility of CTF 158 ends and down to the Strait of Hormuz between Oman and Iran where the area of responsibility for CTF 150 begins;
  • Combined Task Force 151 patrols mostly the same area as CTF 150 but is primarily focused on deterring and disrupting Somalian pirate attack on leisure boats and commercial shipping;
  • CTF 52 (as above) patrols the same area as CTF 152 but is focused on countermining/demining activity.[24]


  1. The "Big Blue Fleet" was the name given to the main fleet of the US Navy in the Pacific. The term stems from pre-war planning, called the color plans because each naton included was given a color code name. In these potential plans the British navy was red, the German navy black, and so forth. The Imperial Japanese Navy was termed the "Orange Fleet". The US fleet was the "Blue Fleet". The "Big Blue Fleet" was the massive fleet that the US Navy anticitpated they would win the war with. It was thought this fleet would largely come into being by late 1943, early 1944.[2]
  1. "Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central/ U.S. 5th Fleet". Retrieved 2013-01-15. 
  2. Potter p. 112
  3. Barbara Starr, 'US Fifth Fleet reborn for active duty in the Persian Gulf, Jane's Defence Weekly, 27 May 1995, p.11
  4. "Fifth Fleet". 
  5. Adkins, Mark; John Kruse (August 3, 2003). "Case Study: Network Centric Warfare in the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet Web-Supported Operational Level Command and Control in Operation Enduring Freedom" (PDF). Center for the Management of Information. University of Arizona. Retrieved 2011-02-23. 
  6. Center for Naval Analyses 'Coast Guard Operations during Operation Iraqi Freedom'
  7. Parisa Hafezi (3 January 2012). "Iran threatens U.S. Navy as sanctions hit economy". Reuters. Retrieved 2012-01-04. 
  8. Joby Warrick and Steven Mufson (3 January 2012). "Iran threatens U.S. ships, alarms oil markets". National Security. Washington Post. Retrieved 2012-01-04.  and Nasser Karimi (3 January 2012). "Iran warns US carrier: Don't come back to Gulf". Stars and Stripes. Retrieved 2012-01-04. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 Thomas Erdbrink (4 January 2012). "Iran prepares bill to bar foreign warships from Persian Gulf". Middle East. Washington Post. Archived from the original on 2013-02-09. Retrieved 2012-01-04. 
  10. Barbara Starr (13 January 2012). "Official: U.S. vessels harassed by high-speed Iranian boats". CNN. Retrieved 2012-01-15. 
  11. Phil Stewart (11 January 2012). "U.S. military moves carriers, denies Iran link". Reuters. Retrieved 2012-01-13. 
  12. Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Zachary Welch (19 January 2012). "Abraham Lincoln Arrives in U.S. 5th Fleet". NNS120119-04. Carrier Strike Group 9 Public Affairs. Retrieved 2012-01-19. 
  13. Peter Hirschberg (19 January 2012). "Iran’s UN Ambassador Says Closing Strait of Hormuz an Option". Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved 2012-01-19. 
  14. Christina Silva (November 27, 2012). "Faulty part on carrier has domino effect on deployments". Stars and Stripes. Retrieved 2012-11-30. 
  15. "USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, USS Hue City, Carrier Air Wing-7 Return Home". NNS121219-06. USS Dwight D. Eisenhower Public Affairs. December 19, 2012. Retrieved 2013-01-07. 
  16. [1][dead link]
  17. NAVCENT/Fifth Fleet Public Affairs, CTF-56 Fills Multiple Roles in Theatre, 25 January 2009. Previously SeaBee or ashore security force (CTF 59, Coalition Forces Conduct Crisis Response Exercise)
  18. List of six task groups is from Powerpoint brief, Navy Expeditionary Combat Command: Executing Navy’s Maritime Strategy, Maritime Civil Affairs Squadron TWO, 2 September 2008
  20. U.S. Navy, MCPON Visits Sailors in Afghanistan, 23 November 2006
  21. [OPNAV Notice 5400 (5400.8543) Modification of Officer in Charge, Patrol and Reconnaissance Force Fifth Fleet Det Bahrain], issued 13 October 2011
  22. This story was written by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael Zeltakalns, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/Commander, U.S. 5th Fleet Public Affairs. "Combined Task Force 59 Welcomes New Commander". Retrieved 2013-01-15. 
  23. "Press Release". 2009-05-08. Retrieved 2013-01-15. 
  24. NAVCENT/Fifth Fleet Public Affairs, Commander Task Force 52 Established, 20 January 2009
  • Potter, E. B. (2005). Admiral Arliegh Burke. U.S. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-1-59114-692-6. 
  • Schneller, Robert J., Jr. Anchor of Resolve: A History of the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/Fifth Fleet (Washington: Naval Historical Center, 2012), 126 pp.

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