The U.S. Navy 5th fleet is responsible for keeping the Strait of Hormuz open to all maritime traffic. Ships passing through the sea lane are all within the range of Iran’s stockpile of short range ballistic missies, which leaves the interests of the U.S. and our allies at risk.
In the wake of Iran’s capture of 10 US navy sailors in January of 2016 and a provocative ‘exercise’ conducted by Iran’s navy in the Strait of Hormuz later the same month, naval operations aimed at protecting maritime trade remain a major goal for the navy. Nearly twenty percent of the world’s total oil passes through the Strait of Hormuz, and although the United States is exporting more oil than it imports for the first time, this is still an invaluable trade route upon which our country and our allies depend.
As recently as 2011, Iran threatened to shut down the Strait of Hormuz to international trade, although such drastic measures seem less likely in the wake of the US’s recent nuclear deal with the nation. US naval operations, however, can be conducted even when command of the sea is in dispute. In light of situations such as these, it is paramount for the US Navy to ensure the continued flow of maritime trade through the Strait of Hormuz. It is essential "to ensure at least control of the sea, the subsurface, and the air in the proximity” if the sea comes under further dispute.
If Iran were to attempt to cut off the international maritime activity that passes through the Strait of Hormuz,it would harm our security interests and our presence at sea. The United States retains great interests in uninhibited maritime activity and the freedom of action to operate effectively throughout the seas.
The Navy uses the term “all domain access” to refer to its ability to navigate the seas uninhibited, which is as much an asset to the United States as the trade that it allows us to pursue. The US does not tolerate state or non-state actors threatening its presence, or that of its allies, in the open seas, and works for them to be just that.
A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower
Vego, M. N., (2008). Major Naval Operations. Newport, RI: Naval War College Press.