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Through an odd twist of timing, the U.S. Navy sent two new aircraft carrier strike groups to the Arabian Sea to join the carrier group already there under the John C. Stennis.The Pentagon denies any correlation between the tensions with Iran and the deployment, and while the Stennis was slated to return to its San Diego port, defence officials have not said when that may occur.
The U.S. Navy has 11 carrier strike groups and each consist of:
- One aircraft carrier
- Two anti-aircraft ships equipped with Tomahawk missiles
- Up to two Anti-submarine destroyers, usually a destroyer and a frigate
- One submarine (likely two in the open sea)
- One combination ammunition, supply, and oil ship
All told the three groups could have 24 vessels between them until the Stennis heads back to San Diego. Such a large presence comes at great expense, and while the U.S. beefs up its patrols of the Strait of Hormuz to enforce its new oil sanctions against Iran, China reaps the benefits.
Indira A.R. Lakshmanan and Gopal Ratnam at Bloomberg point out that Chinese oil refiners are likely already negotiating discounts and improved terms on Iranian crude.
Seventeen million barrels of oil pass through the Strait of Hormuz every day and while the U.S. is the number one importer, China is close behind at number two.
In addition to the cost of the carrier groups, the U.S. is flying 24-hour drone missions every three days over the strait and the Gulf and flying 12-hour shifts of P-3 surveillance planes.
While the U.S. spends the money to patrol the strait and keep the oil flowing, China benefits doubly from reduced crude prices and not having to pay a penny to ensure their cheap oil gets delivered without incident.