WASHINGTON (NEWSnet/AP) — The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier strike group will remain in the Red Sea region for at least another month, according to officials.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin signed an order last week to extend the four ships' deployment for a second time, rather than bring home USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and its three warships. The other vessels in the group are USS Philippine Sea, USS Gravely and USS Mason. Together, they comprise about 6,000 sailors.

The decision means the sailors and the carrier's Air Wing won't be home until mid-summer, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Typical ship deployment extends for about seven months. The ships left their homeport of Norfolk, Virginia, in October. Austin approved the first order to extend deployment about four weeks ago.

In recent months, the ships have played a crucial role in protecting vessels from attacks in Red Sea and Gulf of Aden by Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen.

Navy leaders routinely press to bring ships home to maintain a repair schedule and provide a break for sailors. But U.S. Central Command has argued having a carrier in the region is essential for international security.

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