DUBAI - A US navy ship that had been slated for decommissioning has been sent instead to the Gulf to help mine-clearing operations, the US Fifth Fleet based in Bahrain said, the latest move in a gradual US build-up as tensions with Iran smoulder.
A fleet spokesman in Manama said the USS Ponce, described as an "afloat forward staging base" (AFSB), had arrived on Thursday after undergoing refitting for its new mission.
"Ponce's primary mission is to support mine countermeasures operations and other missions, such as the ability to provide repair service to other deployed units," the spokesman said in a statement. "Additionally, Ponce also has the capability to embark and launch small riverine craft."
Vice Admiral John Miller, commander of regional navy forces, said the Ponce boasted "enhanced capability to conduct maritime security operations, and gives us greater flexibility to support a wide range of contingencies with our regional partners".
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