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It is the darkness of the night, in the middle of the Red Sea, but there is no silence. The drone of several F-18 Super Hornet fighter jets produces a deafening sound on the deck of the USS Dwight D Eisenhower.

Wearing shirts of bright primary colors, sailors on the flight deck go about their specific jobs. Munitions officers, dressed in red shirts, flip a switch that activates sidewinder missiles on the outside of the fighter jet’s wings. It’s like taking the safety off your gun. The missiles are now ready to be fired. The pilot advances his plane so that the catapult officers can hook the tow bar of his nose wheel to the shuttle as it descends a smoking slot to the end of the flight deck.

Through a series of hand signals, a deck officer with yellow flashlights tells the pilot it’s time. He revs the engines at full power and everyone’s ribcages on deck tremble. An officer with the title of marksman fires the catapult and with a powerful roar the super hornet launches into combat over the Red Sea.

REPORTER’S NOTEBOOK: INTEGRATED WITH THE IDF DEEP IN THE HAMAS TUNNELS UNDER UNRWA HEADQUARTERS

mike tobin

Fox News correspondent Mike Tobin aboard the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower in the Red Sea. (FoxNews)

Each takeoff is a launch into combat. It all happens in the “weapons standoff zone,” close enough to Houthi-controlled Yemen that they are within range of hostile fire.

“Here we are in constant self-defense when it comes to threats that can shoot at us,” says Rear Admiral Marc Miguez, commander of the strike group.

Self-defense does not mean that they do not go on the offensive. Many times, F-18s are launched with a planned objective. Capt. Marvin Scott, commander of the carrier’s air wing, says his pilots have already degraded the Houthis’ ability to fire on cargo and warships crossing the Red Sea. “By targeting their ability to see us, their surveillance radars, we are now focusing primarily on their military capabilities,” he says.

USS Dwight Eisenhower

USS Dwight D. Eisenhower in the Red Sea (FoxNews)

Many of the targets are “dynamic targets,” something that occurs after the F-18 is in the air. U.S. Central Command says Thursday that U.S. forces attacked four drones and two anti-ship cruise missiles that were prepared to launch. Three drones were shot down near commercial ships in the Red Sea on Friday.

US AND COALITION FORCES DESTROY 6 HOUTI ONE-WAY ATTACK DRONES

Oil tanker on fire

In this photo provided by the Indian Navy on Saturday, January 27, 2024, the oil tanker Marlin Luanda is seen on fire after an attack in the Gulf of Aden. The crew aboard a Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker hit by a missile launched by Yemen’s Houthi rebels are battling a fire aboard the stricken ship caused by the attack. (Indian Navy via AP)

Threats are constant, and while sailors have proven effective at firing missiles from the sky, it is no easy task and failure is not an option. “We have to be right 100% of the time and they only have to be right once,” says Miguez.

The USS Eisenhower is one of six ships in Strike Group Two. One of them is a cruise ship, the USS Philippine Sea. She serves as a sentinel for the strike group, with layers of sailors monitoring high-tech electronic devices that detect incoming threats. In a matter of seconds, the “watchdogs” determine the nature of the threat and how to respond.

“It just depends on what the threat is and what’s coming at us,” says Capt. Steve Liberty, who defined what his ship is prepared for, “anything they can throw at us,” he says.

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USS Dwight D. Eisenhower

Sailors on the flight deck of the USS Dwight D Eisenhower. (FoxNews)

In the end, their mission is as old as the Navy itself. Protecting safe maritime commerce is the reason the Navy was created in the first place. “Freedom of navigation,” says Captain Chris Hill, commander of the Dwight D Eisenhower, “is something we’ve been doing since 1775 and it’s something we’re really good at.”

By Sam