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Fifth Fleet Logo
The 5th Fleet of the United States Navy is responsible for naval forces in the Persian Gulf, Red Sea, Arabian Sea and coast off East Africa as far south as Kenya. It shares a commander and headquarters with U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT). The commander of the 5th Fleet is currently (2010) Vice Admiral John W. Miller.  5th Fleet/NAVCENT is a component command of, and reports to CENTCOM.

  • Joint Task Force command in a natural disaster or joint military operation,
  • Operational command of all naval forces in the region, and
  • Defense of the Korean Peninsula.


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 Click to View Larger 5th Fleet AOR fleet for 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 ashore.

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.Click to View Larger Middle East

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.

Fleet Organization
  • Task Force 50, Battle Force (~1 x Forward Deployed Carrier Strike Group)
  • Task Force 51, Amphibious Force (~1 x Expeditionary Strike Group)
  • Task Force 53, Logistics Force
  • Task Force 54, (dual-hatted as Task Force 74) Submarine Force
  • 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 Reconnaissance Aircraft)
  • Task Force 58, Maritime Surveillance Force (Northern Persian Gulf)
  • 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.