United States Naval Forces Central Command (USNAVCENT)
CountryUnited States
BranchUnited States Navy
Part ofUnited States Central Command
HeadquartersNaval Support Activity Bahrain
Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command; Commander, U.S. 5th Fleet and Combined Forces Maritime ComponentVADM Charles B. Cooper II[1]
Deputy Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central CommandRDML Sean R. Bailey
Vice Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central CommandRDML Robert C. Nowakowski
United Kingdom Maritime Component CommanderCommodore Ed Ahlgren, Royal Navy
Command Master Chief, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command; Command Master Chief, U.S. 5th Fleet.CMDCM Franklin P. Call
Vice Admiral Kevin Cosgriff, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, meets with Vice Admiral, Azerbaijani Navy, Shahin Sultanov during his visit to Baku, Azerbaijan
Vice Admiral Kevin Cosgriff, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, meets with Vice Admiral, Azerbaijani Navy, Shahin Sultanov during his visit to Baku, Azerbaijan

United States Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) is the United States Navy element of United States Central Command (USCENTCOM). Its area of responsibility includes the Red Sea, Gulf of Oman, Persian Gulf, and Arabian Sea. It consists of the United States Fifth Fleet and several other subordinate task forces, including Combined Task Force 150, Combined Task Force 158 and others.

Navy Persian Gulf operations 1945–1971

The Navy's post-World War II operations in the Persian Gulf began in 1948 when a series of U.S. task groups, led by the aircraft carrier USS Valley Forge, the escort carrier USS Rendova, and Task Force 128 led by USS Pocono, visited the Persian Gulf.[2] On 20 January 1948, Commander-in-Chief, Northeastern Atlantic and Mediterranean, Admiral Conolly, created Task Force 126 to supervise the large number of Navy fleet oilers and chartered tankers picking up oil in the Persian Gulf. By June 1949, the Task Force had become Persian Gulf Forces and on 16 August 1949 Persian Gulf Forces became Middle East Force.[citation needed]

In October 1948, Hydrographic Survey Group 1 arrived to help map the Persian Gulf's waters. Consisting of USS Maury, USS Dutton, USS John Blish, and USS Littlehales, the group remained in the Persian Gulf until April 1949, but their efforts were limited by weather, logistics support and upkeep.[citation needed]

In 1971, when Bahrain achieved full independence, the U.S. Navy leased part of the former British base HMS Jufair, originally established in 1935. It was renamed it Administrative Support Unit, Bahrain. The name was changed to Naval Support Activity Bahrain in 1999, to reflect its broader support role.[citation needed]

Naval Forces Central Command from 1983

The command was established on 1 January 1983 along with the rest of U.S. Central Command, and command of NAVCENT was initially given to a flag officer selectee based at Pearl Harbor and tasked with coordinating administrative and logistical support for U.S. naval forces in the Persian Gulf. Rear Admiral (lower half) Stan Arthur, the first ComUSNAVCENT, served simultaneously as the Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Fleet, Plans Officer during his first year in the position.[3] An actual flag officer deployed to the region known as Commander, Middle East Force (COMMIDEASTFOR), retained operational control of U.S. naval forces in the Persian Gulf and effectively served as USCENTCOM's de facto naval component commander.[4]

Following the initial establishment of U.S. Central Command, the boundary between USCENTCOM and U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM) was the Strait of Hormuz. To direct forces of multiple services operating over the boundary, Joint Task Force Middle East was established on 20 September 1987. It was soon obvious that JTF-ME and the Middle East Force were directing much the same operations, and a single dual-hatted naval commander, Commander, Middle Eastern Force (COMMIDEASTFOR), was appointed by February 1988. U.S. Naval Forces Central Command took part in Operation Earnest Will in 1986–1987 and supported Army special operations helicopters conducting Operation Prime Chance. Operation Praying Mantis followed later.

In August 1990, Captain Robert Sutton USN, who had been selected for promotion to rear admiral (lower half), was serving as ComUSNAVCENT.[3] The first Central Command operations order for Desert Shield, issued on 10 August 1990, reflected the Pearl Harbor/MIDEASTFOR split and split the tasks between the two organisations, but, 'most likely,' Pokrant writes, 'Schwarzkopf had already decided to do things differently.'[5] As Pokrant recounts, in a meeting on 6 August 1990, the Central Command plans chief, Rear Admiral Grant Sharp, had advised Schwarzkopf to have a [numbered] fleet commander assigned to CENTCOM to control the extensive naval forces that would deploy. Schwarzkopf discussed the issue with Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Command, Admiral Huntington Hardisty. It was agreed that the Commander, U.S. Seventh Fleet (COMSEVENTHFLT) staff, under Vice Admiral Hank Mauz, would be despatched to command in the Middle East and, tentatively, the Commander, U.S. Third Fleet staff would be earmarked to replace them in six months.

Mauz, his staff, and his flagship, USS Blue Ridge, were all located at Yokosuka, Japan, their normal homeport. To speed the process of taking over command, Mauz obtained permission from Hardisty to fly immediately to Diego Garcia aboard a VIP-configured P-3 Orion, 'Peter Rabbit,' with key members of his staff.[6] The rest of the command group would steam to the Persian Gulf aboard Blue Ridge. When Mauz was cleared to proceed from Diego Garcia to Bahrain, he expected to land and have some days to familiarise himself with the situation before taking over command of NAVCENT from Rear Admiral William M. Fogarty. However, on landing he found a message from Schwarzkopf ordering him to assume command immediately.

Battle Force Zulu - 1991 Gulf War
Battle Force Zulu - 1991 Gulf War

After arrival in-theatre in late 1990, Vice Admiral Henry H. Mauz "retained the Middle East Force, designated CTG 150.1 [Commander Task Group 150.1], for most warfighting functions inside the Persian Gulf. Under this hat, Rear Admiral Fogarty would control only the half-dozen ships or so of the Middle East Force, augmented by the battleship Wisconsin when it arrived. Under a second hat, CTG 150.2, Fogarty would be the commander of the U.S. Maritime Interception Force. For this job, his authority would extend outside the Persian Gulf to ships operating in the North Arabian Sea and Red Sea, but only for interception operations."[7] The CVBGs in the North Arabian Sea and Red Sea were designated Task Groups 150.4 and 150.5 respectively; the Amphibious and Landing Forces were CTG 150.6 and CTG 150.8 (Major General Jenkins). Rear Admiral Stephen S. Clarey was Commander U.S. Maritime Prepositioning Force, Commander Task Group 150.7 (CTG 150.7), with the equipment for the U.S. Marine Corps aboard. After the ships had disembarked the Marine equipment in Saudi Arabia, CTG 150.7 was disestablished on 12 September 1990.[8][9]

From 1 January 1991, the six carriers deployed were divided into Battle Force Yankee (two carriers, including Saratoga, in the Red Sea under Rear Admiral Riley Mixson, Commander, Carrier Group Two/Task Force 155) and Task Force 154, Battle Force Zulu (four carriers in the Arabian Sea/Persian Gulf under Rear Admiral Daniel P. March, Commander, Carrier Group Five). TF 150 was Vice Admiral Henry H. Mauz, Jr. himself, TF 151 the Middle East Force, now including USS Bunker Hill, TG 150.3 Naval Logistics Support Force (Rear Admiral Bob Sutton), and TF 156 the amphibious force.[10]

Since ComUSNAVCENT operated from on board ship, he established NAVCENT-Riyadh as a staff organization to provide continuous Navy representation at CENTCOM headquarters.[11] This mission was assigned initially to Commander, Carrier Group Three (COMCARGRU 3). During succeeding months, the NAVCENT-Riyadh staff was augmented substantially but remained small, relative to the ARCENT and CENTAF staffs. In November, the NAVCENT-Riyadh command was transferred from COMCARGRU 3 to Commander, Cruiser-Destroyer Group 5. This change resulted in the Navy flag officer at NAVCENT Riyadh's remaining relatively junior to other Service representatives, particularly CENTAF. This imbalance in size and seniority between the Navy and other staffs, coupled with the geographic separation with NAVCENT headquarters, made it difficult for NAVCENT-Riyadh to represent the interests of the Navy in the overall coordination and planning efforts.

On 24 April 1991, Vice Admiral Stan Arthur turned over command of NAVCENT to Rear Admiral Ray Taylor, Fogerty's replacement as Commander, Middle East Force, and Arthur and Blue Ridge began their voyage back to the Pacific.[12] Two months earlier, Rear Admiral Taylor had submitted thoughts on the reorientation of the NAVCENT command structure to Schwarzkopf following an earlier direction from Admiral Arthur.[13] The proposal, which was modified in the staffing process, eventually meant that the one-staff ComUSNAVCENT in Hawaii was upgraded to a two-star appointment co-located with Central Command headquarters in Tampa, Florida. Rear Admiral David Rogers became the first two-star Navy representative in Tampa when he relieved Rear Admiral Sutton.

Although COMSEVENTHFLT held command responsibility during this period, no numbered fleet existed permanently within the USCENTCOM area of responsibility during the first Gulf War and for the next four years thereafter. By July 1995, a new numbered fleet was deemed necessary by the senior U.S. Navy leadership, and after a 48-year hiatus, the U.S. Fifth Fleet was reactivated, replacing COMMIDEASTFOR.[14] Dual-hatted as COMUSNAVCENT as the naval component command of USCENTCOM, the same Vice Admiral (and his staff) as Commander, U.S. Fifth Fleet (COMFIFTHFLT) now directs naval operations in the Persian Gulf, Red Sea, and the Arabian Sea. The combined COMUSNAVCENT/COMFIFTHFLT headquarters is located at NSA Bahrain in Manama, Bahrain. The command oversees both afloat and shore-based units that rotationally deploy or surge from the United States, plus a few smaller surface ships that are based in the Gulf for longer periods. Ships rotationally deploy to the U.S. Fifth Fleet from the Pacific and Atlantic Fleets.[15]

From 2010 through 2013, the U.S. maintained two aircraft carriers east of Suez, known as a "2.0 carrier presence," although it sometimes temporarily dipped below that level.[16] The heightened presence aimed to provide air and sea striking power for U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and also to deter Iran from bad behavior in the region and keep the Strait of Hormuz open.

On 1 December 2018, NAVCENT commander Vice Admiral Scott A. Stearney was found dead in his residence in Bahrain. No foul play was suspected. Rear Admiral Paul J. Schlise assumed interim command. Vice Admiral Jim Malloy flew to Bahrain to take command.[17][18]

Combined Maritime Forces

Combined Maritime Forces Participants[19]



 South Korea
 The Netherlands
 New Zealand



 Saudi Arabia



In February 2002 the Combined Maritime Forces was also established as an embedded activity to provide coordinated Coalition operations in the area of operations. It is an international naval partnership that provides security for civilian maritime traffic by conducting counter-piracy and counter-terrorism missions in the heavily trafficked waters of the Middle East, Africa and South Asia, including the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf, the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea and the wider Indian Ocean.[19]

CMF's personnel and ships are drawn from 33 nations and are organised into three principal task forces:

After the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, Commander, Task Force 150, previously a single-nation U.S. formation, was made into a multinational effort as Combined Task Force 150 (HOA MIO Force), and was given a renewed focus on maritime security and counter-terrorism. It was established on 3 February 2002, by Vice Admiral Charles W. Moore.[23] Over time, it became increasingly involved in combating the rising incidence of piracy in Somalia.

Combined Task Force 151 was established in January 2009 by Vice Admiral William E. Gortney specifically to address counter-piracy operations.[24]

Operating alongside CTF 151 and Operation Ocean Shield are other national deployments such as the People's Liberation Army Navy, most recently with "CTF 526" aboard the Type 054 frigate Wenzhou (which had the hull number 526).

List of commanders

No. Commander Term Notes
Portrait Name Took office Left office Term length
Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (COMUSNAVCENT)
Rear Admiral (lower half)
Stanley R. Arthur
(born 1935)
1 January 19831987~4 years, 0 daysLater served as the 5th NAVCENT commander from 1990 to 1991.
Rear Admiral (lower half)
Philip F. Duffy
1987June 1990~3 years, 151 daysCommander, Training Command, U.S. Atlantic Fleet (1990-1991)
Retired, 1991.
Robert Sutton[25]
June 1990August 1990~61 daysPromoted to RDML in 1991; RADM in 1996
Commander, U.S. Naval Logistics
Support Force (Task Force 150.3) (1990-1991)
Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (Rear) (1991)
Retired, 1999.
Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (COMUSNAVCENT) and U.S. Seventh Fleet (C7F)
Vice Admiral
Henry H. Mauz Jr.[26]
(born 1936)
August 19901 December 1990~122 daysDeputy Chief of Naval Operations
for Navy Program Planning (1990-1992)[27]
Promoted to admiral, 1992.
Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Atlantic Fleet (1992-1994)
Retired, 1994.
Vice Admiral
Stanley R. Arthur[28]
(born 1935)
1 December 199024 April 1991144 daysContinued to command Seventh Fleet until July 1992
Promoted to admiral, 1992.
Vice Chief of Naval Operations (1992-1995)
Retired, 1995.
Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (COMUSNAVCENT)
Rear Admiral
Raynor A.K. Taylor[26]
24 April 199119 October 19921 year, 178 daysRetired, 1993.
Vice Admiral
Douglas J. Katz[26]
19 October 1992September 1994~1 year, 317 daysCommander, Naval Surface Force,
U.S. Atlantic Fleet (1994-1997)
Retired, 1997.
Vice Admiral
John Scott Redd[29]
(born 1944)
September 19941 July 1995~303 daysDirector for Strategy, Plans and Policy, Joint Staff (1996-1998)
Retired, 1998.
Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (COMUSNAVCENT) and U.S. Fifth Fleet (C5F)
Vice Admiral
John Scott Redd
(born 1944)
1 July 1995June 1996~336 daysDirector for Strategy, Plans and Policy, Joint Staff (1996-1998)
Retired, 1998.
Vice Admiral
Thomas B. Fargo[30]
(born 1948)
June 199627 July 1998~2 years, 56 daysPromoted to admiral, 1999.
Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet (1999-2002)
Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Command (2002)
Commander, U.S. Pacific Command (2002-2005)
Retired, 2005.
Vice Admiral
Charles W. Moore Jr.[31]
(born 1946)
27 July 19983 February 20023 years, 191 daysDeputy Chief of Naval Operations
for Fleet Readiness and Logistics (2002-2004)
Retired, 2004.
Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (COMUSNAVCENT), U.S. Fifth Fleet (C5F) and Combined Maritime Forces (CMF)
Vice Admiral
Charles W. Moore Jr.
(born 1946)
3 February 200211 February 20028 daysDeputy Chief of Naval Operations
for Fleet Readiness and Logistics (2002-2004)
Retired, 2004.
Vice Admiral
Timothy J. Keating
(born 1948)
11 February 20027 October 20031 year, 238 daysDirector of the Joint Staff (2003-2004)
Promoted to admiral, 2004.
Commander, U.S. Northern Command and
North American Aerospace Defense Command (2004-2007)
Commander, U.S. Pacific Command (2007-2009)
Retired, 2009.
Vice Admiral
David C. Nichols[32]
(born 1950)
7 October 20033 November 20052 years, 27 daysDeputy Commander, U.S. Central Command (2005-2007)
Retired, 2007.
Vice Admiral
Patrick M. Walsh[32]
(born 1955)
3 November 200527 February 20071 year, 116 daysPromoted to admiral, 2007.
Vice Chief of Naval Operations (2007-2009)
Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet (2009-2012)
Retired, 2012.
Vice Admiral
Kevin J. Cosgriff[33]
27 February 20075 July 20081 year, 129 daysRetired, 2008.
Vice Admiral
William E. Gortney[34]
(born 1955)
5 July 20085 July 20102 years, 0 daysDirector of the Joint Staff (2010-2012)
Promoted to admiral, 2012.
Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command (2012-2014)
Commander, U.S. Northern Command and
North American Aerospace Defense Command (2014-2016)
Retired, 2016.
Vice Admiral
Mark I. Fox[35]
(born 1956)
5 July 201024 May 20121 year, 324 daysDeputy Chief of Naval Operations
for Operations, Plans, and Strategy (2012-2013)
Deputy Commander, U.S. Central Command (2013-2016)
Retired, 2016.
Vice Admiral
John W. Miller[36]
24 May 20123 September 20153 years, 102 daysRetired, 2015.
Vice Admiral
Kevin M. Donegan[37]
(born 1958)
3 September 201519 September 20172 years, 16 daysDirector of Navy Staff and Deputy Chief of Naval Operations
for Operations, Plans and Strategy (2017-2018)
Retired, 2018.
Vice Admiral
John C. Aquilino[38]
(born 1962)
19 September 20176 May 2018229 daysPromoted to admiral, 2018.
Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet (2018-2021)
Commander, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (2021-present)
Vice Admiral
Scott Stearney[39]
6 May 20181 December 2018209 daysFound dead in Bahrain residence, cause of death ruled a suicide.
Rear Admiral (lower half)
Paul J. Schlise
1 December 20187 December 20186 daysWas deputy commander of NAVCENT/C5F from 2017 to 2019.
Director, Surface Warfare Division, N96,
Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (2020-present)
Vice Admiral
James J. Malloy[40]
(born 1963)
7 December 201819 August 20201 year, 256 daysDeputy Commander, U.S. Central Command (2020-present)
Vice Admiral
Samuel Paparo[41]
(born 1964)
19 August 20205 May 2021259 daysPromoted to admiral, 2021.
Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet (2021-present)
Vice Admiral
Charles Cooper II[42]
(born 1967)
5 May 2021Incumbent258 days-


  1. ^ "Vice Admiral Brad Cooper". Retrieved 6 May 2021.
  2. ^ These two paragraphs are based on David F. Winkler, 'Admirals, Amirs, and Desert Sailors,' Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, Maryland, 2007, p.21-25
  3. ^ a b Pokrant 1999, p. 8.
  4. ^ Winkler, p.86
  5. ^ Pokrant 1999, pp. 8–10.
  6. ^ Pokrant 1999, pp. 11–12.
  7. ^ Pokrant 1999, p. 20.
  8. ^ Pokrant 1999, p. 21.
  9. ^ Edward J. Marolda, Robert John Schneller. Shield and Sword: The United States Navy and the Persian Gulf War. p. 84.
  10. ^ Pokrant 1999.
  11. ^ Conduct of the Persian Gulf War, Final Report to Congress, pg 553 start
  12. ^ Pokrant, 192.
  13. ^ Winkler, 127-8.
  14. ^ Barbara Starr, 'US Fifth Fleet reborn for active duty in the Persian Gulf, Jane's Defence Weekly, 27 May 1995, p.11
  15. ^ http://www.cusnc.navy.mil/command/history.html
  16. ^ http://thehill.com/policy/defense/257238-iran-missile-test-comes-as-us-pulls-aircraft-carrier-from-region
  17. ^ LaGrone, Sam (1 December 2018). "UPDATED: U.S. 5th Fleet Commander Found Dead in Bahrain - USNI News". United States Naval Institute. Retrieved 1 December 2018.
  18. ^ Kube, Courtney; Helsel, Phil (1 December 2018). "Navy admiral Scott Stearney found dead in Bahrain, no foul play suspected". NBC News. Retrieved 1 December 2018.
  19. ^ a b About CMF
  20. ^ CTF-150: Maritime Security
  21. ^ CTF-151: Counter-piracy
  22. ^ CTF-152: Gulf Maritime Security
  23. ^ Piracy and HOA Operations
  24. ^ New Counter-Piracy Task Force Established
  25. ^ "Sutton" (PDF). Retrieved 18 May 2021.
  26. ^ a b c Anchor of Resolve: A History of US Naval Forces Central Command (PDF). p. 38. Retrieved 18 May 2021.
  27. ^ "ADMIRAL HENRY H. MAUZ JR. '59, USN (RET.)". USNA. Retrieved 18 May 2021.
  28. ^ Anchor of Resolve: A History of US Naval Forces Central Command (PDF). p. 38. Retrieved 18 May 2021.
  29. ^ Anchor of Resolve: A History of US Naval Forces Central Command (PDF). p. 40. Retrieved 18 May 2021.
  30. ^ "Admiral Thomas B. Fargo, U.S. Navy (Ret.)". Retrieved 18 May 2021.
  32. ^ a b "Vice Adm. Nichols Turns Over the Reigns to Vice Adm. Walsh [Image 3 of 3]". dvidshub.net. 3 November 2005.
  33. ^ "Cosgriff Assumes Command of NAVCENT, 5th Fleet". dvidshub.net. 27 February 2007.
  34. ^ "Cosgriff Highlights Regional Cooperation during Change of Command". dvidshub.net. 5 July 2008.
  35. ^ "Vice Adm. Fox Assumes Command of US Navy in Middle East". dvidshub.net. 5 July 2010.
  37. ^ "Prolific fighter pilot takes over 5th Fleet". Navy Times. 8 September 2015.
  38. ^ "U.S. Fifth Fleet Welcomes New Commander". U.S. Naval Forces Central Command. 19 July 2019.
  39. ^ "VADM Stearney Takes Command of 5th Fleet; RADM Corey Takes Over PEO Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons". USNI News. 8 May 2018.
  40. ^ "Vice Admiral James Malloy Assumes Duties as U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/U.S. 5th Fleet Commander". U.S. Naval Forces Central Command. 7 December 2018.
  41. ^ "NAVCENT, FIFTH FLEET, CMF WELCOME NEW COMMANDER". U.S. Marine Corps. 19 August 2019.
  42. ^ "NAVCENT, U.S. Fifth Fleet, CMF Change of Command". U.S. Naval Forces Central Command. 6 May 2021.

Further reading