On Wednesday, the USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) left the Mediterranean after a 230-day deployment in the area. Bush’s departure means there will not be a U.S. carrier in the area for the first time since December 2021.
The NATO alliance currently only has one operational aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean, the Italian ITS Cavour (C550). The Cavour can carry a mix of AV-8+ Harrier II, F-35B (currently 4, two from the Italian Navy and two from the Italian Air Force), and helicopters for a total of about 20 aircraft. This number, however, is significantly lower compared to the Bush’s capacity of over 90 aircraft.
The other Italian aircraft carrier, the ITS Garibaldi (C551) has just completed a period of work and is currently engaged in the Mare Aperto 2023 exercise but currently cannot deploy an autonomous flight group at the same time as the Cavour due to lack of aircraft.
The only other deployable aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean, the French FS Charles de Gaulle (R91), is also undergoing maintenance in Toulon, with work expected to be completed in the fall.
Although with limited capabilities, NATO also has the Spanish Navy amphibious assault ship Juan Carlos I (L-61) in the Mediterranean, which can carry up to ten AV-8+ Harrier II aircraft in case of necessity but is currently unavailable for work as well (in Cadiz)