In the early days of this month, air traffic controllers in Gran Canaria began monitoring on their screens a swarm of unidentified flight effects in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Which – which Airport Rising out of nowhere, it appeared about 50 miles north of the island of La Palma and moved from west to east until it passed in front of La Graciosa in the direction of Morocco. The aircraft carrier USS Eisenhower was a nuclear aircraft carrier of nearly 100,000 tons with a capacity of 90 aircraft.
The ship was in the vanguard of the Ike Battle Group, which completed two cruisers and four missile destroyers, with more than 5,000 troops in total. She sailed through international waters, so she didn’t need any permission, but she did operate in the Canary Islands air traffic control area, whose security corresponds to Spain. The US Navy usually issues Notam (an abbreviation for “Notice to pilots Or “notifying the navigators”), warning of the completion of military trips in the region and indicating the schedule and expected altitude, so as not to interfere with civilian flights. “It’s not mandatory, but it is part of Due consideration [buenas prácticas]José Luis Velic, USCA spokesperson for the Canary Islands explains.
This did not happen, at least at first, and observers were surprised by these unknown flights and the uncertainty about their development, without being able to contact them other than the emergency frequency that they activated until they were able to contact a pilot.
The USCA spokesperson acknowledges that it was an “uncomfortable and unexpected situation,” but states that it “posed no danger to air navigation” and there was no need to change any civilian flight; Among other reasons, with the spread of the Coronavirus, the frequency of flights to the archipelago has been drastically reduced. He concludes, “Dealing with unexpected situations is part of our job.”
According to the sources consulted, two aircraft mistakenly invaded Spanish airspace, which stretches 12 miles off the Canary Coast. But this is not what worries air traffic controllers, whose area of responsibility is much broader. What worried them was the lack of coordination and information. They had a second day the next day, through Notam issued by Enaire, the public entity that manages aviation navigation, once the United States provided it.
Between 3 and 5 March, the Ike Combat Group participated in the Lightning Handshake (“lightning handshake”) exercise with the Moroccan Navy and Army, which contributed a frigate, four F-16 and F-5 fighter jets, and a helicopter, in addition to its center of operations. Marine and Air. The aim of the maneuvers was to improve coordination between the US and Moroccan armies and enhance the capabilities of the second in aerial refueling, ground attack (at the Tan-Tan Firing Range, just over 300 kilometers from the Canary Islands), and to combat war. – Intercepting submarines and the sea.
The US embassy in Rabat confirmed that the exercises were a sample of a “strong and enduring partnership” between the two countries in security affairs. Under Donald Trump, there was a noticeable rapprochement between Washington and Rabat (to the point that there was speculation that the American forces deployed at the Spanish Rota base would be transferred to the neighboring country) that culminated in the recognition of Moroccan sovereignty. Over the Western Sahara on December 10th.
After the exercises, the battle group crossed the Strait of Gibraltar towards the Mediterranean Sea. Two destroyers, USS Labon and USS Mahan, have been called up at Rota base. The Pentagon has not disclosed the aircraft carrier’s route, but it is assumed that it will participate in exercises with NATO, as it has been certified to do so, and it is believed that it will go to the Persian Gulf, where the previous one was. The administration has maintained a permanent combat group since 2019 to deter Iran.