MARKET WATCH

This 20-story-tall aircraft carrier with a crew of 5,000 made an unplanned diversion from the Gulf to the eastern Mediterranean last week — a quick pivot intended to send a clear message to Russia.

The massive ship serves as a launching point for a near-constant barrage of airstrikes on Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria. Since November, it has accounted for a little more than half of the total sorties flown over those two countries by the U.S. military.

Read: Is America’ military the No. 1 fighting force in the world?

Rear Adm. Bret Batchelder, the highest-ranking officer on the carrier, told visiting reporters this week that moving the “capital ship” of the U.S. Navy from the Gulf through the Suez Canal is a flexing of muscle meant to reassure North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies of the American commitment to maintaining the balance of naval power in the Mediterranean.

With 5000 crew members, including engineers and fighter pilots, the USS Harry Truman serves as a staging ground for a near-constant barrage of airstrikes on Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria. Photo: Tamer El-Ghobashy/WSJ

“It is a demonstration of capability. That’s for sure,” he said. “There are undoubtedly folks who are watching that and this is just a graphic representation of what we’re capable of.”

A military official in Washington said the Truman’s shift was a signal to Moscow and a demonstration of the Navy’s operational flexibility and reach.

Pentagon officials believe the high-tech railgun could pave the way for military advantage defending assets on sea and on land. Photo: U.S. Department of Defense

The official and Adm. Batchelder said the ship’s position in the Mediterranean could make it a vital asset if the U.S. and its allies were to begin operations against Islamic State in Libya. The U.S. is contemplating operations in the oil-rich North African country.