US assault ship USS Bataan raced at ’best speed’ into the Red Sea fight ready to ’punch somebody in the face’ if needed, top officers say

USS Bataan extended its deployment last year and sailed into the Red Sea to combat the Houthis. The US amphibious assault ship joined a fight largely meant for other ships, a senior officer said. The Bataan is currently in New York City this week as part of Fleet Week 2024. As war broke out between


  • USS Bataan extended its deployment last year and sailed into the Red Sea to combat the Houthis.

  • The US amphibious assault ship joined a fight largely meant for other ships, a senior officer said.

  • The Bataan is currently in New York City this week as part of Fleet Week 2024.

As war broke out between Israel and Hamas and the Iran-backed Houthis began terrorizing commercial shipping vessels, the US Navy warship USS Bataan changed its plans and rushed at ”best speed” into the Red Sea.

That move accompanied an unexpected extension of its deployment and brought the Bataan, an amphibious assault ship, into a fight largely meant for other warships like carriers, destroyers, and cruisers, a senior officer told Business Insider.

Now, a few months after the Bataan finally returned home, the warship is docked in New York City for Fleet Week 2024, allowing the public a rare chance to meet its sailors and Marines.

Aboard the Bataan on Wednesday afternoon, US Fleet Forces Command leader Adm. Darryl Caudle commended the ship’s deployment, especially its actions in the Red Sea.

Adm. Daryl Caudle, commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, speaks at the Fleet Week New York parade of ships opening ceremony at the Intrepid Museum, May 22, 2024.
Adm. Daryl Caudle, commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, speaks at the Fleet Week New York parade of ships opening ceremony at the Intrepid Museum, May 22, 2024.U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Clay Whaley

Eight-and-a-half months, he said, is ”a long time to be away from home, your families, and conducting business on behalf of the Navy and our nation. And I think I would characterize what they did as remarkable.” Caudle added that he’d recently been briefed on the deployment.

The Bataan arrived in the Arabian Gulf in August, where it was expected to spend the duration of its deployment, but when Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, the big-deck amphib booked it to Kuwait, picking up Marines and then sailing out ”at best speed” toward the Red Sea, where the Bataan remained through the end of the year.

”Ultimately, we were there [for] presence ops, but we were also launching AV-8s to intercept KAS-4s that were airborne, and we were in position in some cases to take self-defense shots,” Capt. Trace Head, the ship’s executive officer, said, referring to the vessel’s Harrier jump jets and a type of Iranian-made drone.

Head explained that the Houthis ”weren’t necessarily shooting” at the Bataan, rather aiming at Israel and commercial vessels transiting the Red Sea, ”but we were in the trajectory of those missiles to where we could take shots at them.”

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Carney (DDG 64) defeats a combination of Houthi missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles in the Red Sea, Oct. 19.
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Carney (DDG 64) defeats a combination of Houthi missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles in the Red Sea, Oct. 19, 2023.US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Aaron Lau

The role of the Bataan was deterrence, but he said that ”largely that mission is a destroyer/cruiser mission where they’re taking shots with their surface-to-air missiles, and they’re much better fitted for that.”

US Navy destroyers like USS Carney and USS Gravely have, for instance, been on the front lines of the Houthi fight, shooting down dozens of threats in recent months. When the Pentagon decided to keep the Bataan in the Red Sea for a period, there were at least three guided-missile destroyers in the area. The amphibious assault ships are highly versatile though, and bring different capabilities into combat.

The Bataan was involved in retaliatory airstrikes on Houthi forces in Yemen in January, according to a BBC report.

Atlantic Ocean, December 12, 2013 - An SH-60 Sea Hawk helicopter lands on the flight deck aboard the multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5).
Atlantic Ocean, December 12, 2013 – An SH-60 Sea Hawk helicopter lands on the flight deck aboard the multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5).Stocktrek Images

Some of the Bataan’s different aircraft were on display at Fleet Week, including AV-8B Harrier II attack aircraft, MV-22B Osprey assault support tiltrotors, and Super Cobra attack helicopters. The Bataan is armed with a few weapons systems, including two RIM-7 Sea Sparrow ant-air missile launchers.

Perhaps the most notable feature of this amphibious assault ship is its well deck, which allows for boats and other water vehicles to dock within the ship. It also lets the Bataan load land vehicles, such as battle tanks and armored personnel carriers, onto water vehicles to get taken to shore.

Marine Forces Command leader Lt. Gen. Brian Cavanaugh told BI that having the Bataan, as well as other elements of the amphibious readiness group, in the Red Sea at the time sent ”a signal.”

Arabian Gulf, August 24, 2014 - Marines aboard an amphibious assault vehicle (AAV) exit the well deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5).
Arabian Gulf, August 24, 2014 – Marines aboard an amphibious assault vehicle (AAV) exit the well deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5).Stocktrek Images

”It’s a great deterrent,” he explained, saying that ”there’s a lot of lethality on the ship, so we can go and punch somebody in the face if we need to on behalf of the nation.”

Aboard the Bataan at NYC Fleet Week, Petty officer second class Bradley Rickard told BI the sudden retasking was ”all very surprising,” but they adapted, highlighting the crew’s flexibility.

”A lot of the deployment was not what the crew was expecting initially,” he said, ”but we were ready to meet the call. We went and we did our mission in the areas that we were asked to be there for.”

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