Marines unload MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge in the Atlantic Ocean. Marine Corps photo

The Navy is dispatching an aircraft carrier, three amphibious assault ships and a host of other vessels to support relief operations anticipated in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.

The deadly hurricane, one of the largest and strongest on record, was expected to make landfall in the Florida Keys on Sunday morning and then move north along the west coast of the state.

The amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima and the amphibious transport dock ship USS New York departed Naval Station Norfolk on Friday to support relief operations. They will be joined by the guided-missile cruiser USS San Jacinto and guided-missile destroyer USS Farragut.

Also preparing to leave Norfolk was the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln.

The amphibious assault ships USS Wasp and USS Kearsarge along with the dock landing ship USS Oak Hill and the Marines of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit are already in the Caribbean assisting relief efforts in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

With eight ships, three Marine expeditionary units and dozens of helicopters, the flotilla will be able to provide medical and logistic support, medium and heavy lift air support, and bring a diverse capability for assessing damage and providing crucial aid.

It’s the second time in a year that the Iwo Jima has conducted this type of mission. Last October, the ship provided support following the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew in Haiti.

“Many of the crew had similar experiences last year during Hurricane Matthew,” said Capt. James Midkiff, commanding officer of Iwo Jima. “We will apply lessons learned from our time in Haiti to this event in order to be safer and more efficient this time around.”

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.