The 5th Fleet was initially established April 26, 1944 from
Central Pacific Force, commanded by Admiral Raymond Spruance and
disbanded after the war. The ships of the Fifth Fleet also formed
the basis of the Third Fleet, which was the designation of the
"Big Blue Fleet" when under the command of Admiral William
Halsey. Spruance and Halsey would alternate command of the
major operations, allowing the other admiral and his staff time to
prepare for the subsequent one. A secondary benefit was confusing
the Japanese into thinking that they were actually two separate
fleets as the fleet designation flipped back and forth.
During the first Gulf War, U.S. naval operations in the region
were directed by the Commander, Seventh Fleet, given the temporary
task of managing the force during the period. However no numbered
fleet existed permanently within the CENTCOM area of responsibility.
By July 1995, a new numbered fleet was deemed necessary. After a
48-year hiatus, the U.S. 5th Fleet was reactivated and it now
directs operations in the Persian Gulf, Red Sea, and Arabian Sea.
Its headquarters are at NSA Bahrain located in Manama, Bahrain.
For the early years of its existence, its forces normally
consisted of an Aircraft Carrier Battle Group (CVBG), an Amphibious
Ready Group (ARG), surface combatants, submarines, maritime patrol
and reconnaissance aircraft, and logistics ships. However, with the
War on Terrorism, the naval strategy of the U.S. has changed. The
regular deployments of the Cold War are now a thing of the past.
Consequently, the policy of always maintaining a certain number of
ships in various parts of the world is also over. However, its usual
configuration now includes a Carrier Strike Group, Amphibious Ready
Group or Expeditionary Strike Group, and other ships and aircraft
with almost 15,000 people serving afloat and 1,000 support personnel
The forces of the 5th Fleet peaked in early 2003, when five USN
aircraft carriers, six USMC LHAs and LHDs, their escorting and
supply vessels, and over 30 Royal Navy vessels were under its
command. In the aftermath of the fall of Baghdad in April 2003, the
very large force of ships was quickly drawn down. Until and unless
further very serious tensions occur in the area, forces are likely
to remain at a lower level than has been the case in recent years.
Together with Naval Forces Central Command, Fifth Fleet oversees
three naval surveillance task forces monitoring maritime activity:
Combined Task Force 158 in the North Persian Gulf, Combined Task
Force 150 around the Horn of Africa, and TF 152 possibly in the Gulf
of Oman (GOO) and Arabian Sea.
- Task Force 50, Battle Force (~1 x Forward Deployed
Carrier Strike Group)
- Task Force 51, Amphibious Force (~1 x Expeditionary
- Task Force 53, Logistics Force
- Task Force 54, (dual-hatted as Task Force 74) Submarine
- Task Force 55, Operation Iraqi Freedom: Constellation
Carrier Strike Force; June 2003: mine clearing force, including
elements from the U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program
- Task Force 56, SeaBee or ashore security force.
- Task Force 57, (dual-hatted as Task Force 72) Patrol
and Reconnaissance Force (P-3 and EP-3 Maritime Patrol and
- Task Force 58, Maritime Surveillance Force (Northern
- Task Force 59, Expeditionary Force/Contingency Force
(when required, eg. July-August 2006 Lebanon evacuation
operation, in conjunction with Joint Task Force Lebanon) In
February 2007 it was conducting Maritime Security Operations and
as of Nov. 2, 2007, it was running a crisis management exercise.