On board the USS Harry S Truman: Playing cat and mouse with the Russian navy in the eastern Mediterranean

The Russians are keen to keep the USS Harry S Truman in their sights. Credit: PA

When she’s operational you won’t find the aircraft carrier USS Harry S Truman on any map or app.

The best way to track her is to keep her within sight, which is what the Russians are doing.

As she goes about her business in the eastern Mediterranean, the Truman is flanked by six US destroyers, her escorts.

If you think of the bodyguards running alongside Kim Jong-un’s limo you get the picture.

But beyond the escorts, to starboard and port, we can see Russian frigates.

These are strategic waters indeed.

While Washington and the Kremlin are barely on speaking terms, the lines of communication out here at sea remain open.

On the bridge we overhear radio chatter – “Russian warship 777 this is US Navy destroyer 75. Yankee victor one. Romeo uniform five. Tack.”

The American is quoting a Cold War protocol agreed with the then Soviet Union to avoid dangerous incidents at sea.

The Russian warship he’s talking to, her hull number 777, has something of a reputation.

She’s called the Yaroslav Mudry.

In April the Yaroslav Mudry got too close to the UK's coastline. Credit: ITV News

In April, on her way to the Mediterranean, she got too close to the UK’s coastline for the Royal Navy’s liking and the HMS St Albans was dispatched to escort the Russians through the channel.

Two years ago, when the Truman was last in the eastern Mediterranean, one of her escorts veered across the bow of the Yaroslav Mudry when the Americans determined the Russian ship was trying to interfere with operations.

This time round the powers that be on the Truman insist everything is sweetness and light. So far anyway. But the rivalry is obvious.

The F/A – 18 Super Hornets, the fighter-bombers roaring off the flight deck, are helping in the fight against the so-called Islamic State in eastern Syria.

Bombers destined for Syria take off from the Truman. Credit: ITV News

By sheer stint of numbers, US carrier borne aircraft have been the deciding factor in the defeat of the so-called caliphate.

The Truman is vast - more than 5,000 people are on board, and below decks she’s a warren of corridors and hatches.

One young officer told me his daily commute from his cabin to his office and back is a mile.

During our time on board, we were pampered guests and everyone we met was extremely welcoming.

There are more than 5,000 people on board the Truman. Credit: ITV News

Walking through the ship requires good manners as you wait at, or are beckoned through, a hatch or up and down stairs.

Every time I thanked someone who had waited for me there was a polite “a pleasure sir" or “you are very welcome sir".

How long the carrier strike group will be in the Mediterranean is anyone’s guess. Right now the deployment is open-ended.

Concerns over future relations with Russia, Iran and the Syrian regime means her presence here gives the White House options.