- Associated Press - Monday, April 9, 2012

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The U.S. Navy said Monday it has deployed a second aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf region amid rising tensions with Iran over its nuclear program.

The deployment of the nuclear-powered USS Enterprise along the Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group marks only the fourth time in the past decade that the Navy has had two aircraft carriers operating at the same time in the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea, said Cmdr. Amy Derrick-Frost of the Bahrain-based 5th Fleet.

The two carriers will support the American military operations in Afghanistan and anti-piracy efforts off Somalia’s coast and in the Gulf of Aden, Cmdr. Derrick-Frost said.

The warships also patrol the Gulf’s strategic oil routes, which Iran has threatened to shut down in retaliation for economic sanctions.

The deployment of the second aircraft carrier is “routine and not specific to any threat,” Cmdr. Derrick-Frost added. She did say how long the Navy will keep the increased military presence in region.

** FILE ** U.S. sailors clean the flight deck as they move supplies and equipment in preparation for the final deployment of the nuclear aircraft carrier USS Enterprise at the Norfolk Naval Station in Norfolk, Va., on Thursday, March 8, 2012. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
** FILE ** U.S. sailors clean the flight deck as they move ... more >

It was in June 2010 that the U.S. had two carriers operating in the region. Before then, the carriers were deployed in March 2003 during the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and in February 2007 in support of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Enterprise is based in Norfolk. It is the Navy’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and is now on its last mission. The Enterprise was commissioned in November 1961 and is scheduled to be deactivated this fall.