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USS George H.W. Bush and its Super Hornet fighters strike in Iraq

The USS George H.W. Bush, an aircraft carrier, was used to launch F/A-18F Super Hornets to carry out airstrikes in northern Iraq on Friday. (U.S. Navy photo)

As militants with the Islamic State launched artillery rounds at Kurdish forces in northern Iraq, the U.S. military on Friday launched airstrikes using fighter jets on the USS George H. W. Bush, Pentagon officials said.

It was just the latest involvement in combat for the Bush, which was commissioned in 2009. It was used extensively in 2011 to support combat operations in Afghanistan, and left Norfolk, Va., in February on its second deployment. It arrived in the Middle East in March, and entered the Persian Gulf in June, as the Islamic State took control of vast regions of northern and western Iraq.

A Navy official told Checkpoint that the two planes involved in Friday’s airstrikes were F/A-18F Super Hornets with Carrier Air Wing 8, of Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia. The one squadron flying the “F” version of the Super Hornet on the Bush is the “Black Lions” of Navy Strike Fighter Squadron 213, also of Oceana.

Navy officials said Friday that the bombs were GBU-54s. The acronym stands for “guided bomb unit,” while the number designates it from other bombs. The powerful munitions are laser-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions, or JDAMs, with electronics in the nose that seek where the lasers are pointed. As pointed out on Checkpoint this morning, the pilots have the ability to set up laser guidance on their own, or with the help of another fighter pilot nearby.

A variety of other U.S. warships are in the Persian Gulf. They include the USS Philippine Sea, a cruiser, and the USS Roosevelt, a destroyer, both of which are operating with the USS George H.W. Bush as part of the Bush carrier strike group, a Navy official said.

The USS O’Kane, a destroyer, also is operating independently in the Persian Gulf, the official said. Another destroyer, the USS Arleigh Burke, is in the region, but was in port Friday in Bahrain.

Two ships carrying Marines also are in the Persian Gulf. They are the USS Bataan and the USS Gunston Hall, which deployed in February with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, of Camp Lejeune, N.C. The third ship in the Bataan Amhibious Ready Group, the USS Mesa Verde, was in the Red Sea on Friday, officials said.

UPDATE, Aug. 8, 2:17 p.m.: This post has been updated to correct the name of the USS Roosevelt.

UPDATE, Aug. 8, 3:40 p.m.: This post has been updated to include the kind of bombs used.

Related on Checkpoint
Here’s how F-18s likely targeted Islamic State forces in Iraq

This is what could happen if the Islamic State destroys the Mosul Dam

The U.S. military mission in Iraq: What we know now


Dan Lamothe covers national security for The Washington Post and anchors its military blog, Checkpoint.



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