Monday marked the beginning of the United States Navy’s twenty-seventh Rim of the Pacific exercise, and even with the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic, it will remain the world’s largest international maritime exercise, one that is designed to foster and sustain cooperative relationships with partner nations.
The exercise takes place in the waters surrounding the Hawaiian Islands, but across the Pacific in the South China Sea, the U.S. Navy concluded another operation as a show of force in the region that involved the USS Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group 5 (CSG 5).
The group, which consisted of the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76), Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5, USS Antietam (CG 54), USS Mustin (DDG 89) and USS Rafael Peralta (DDG 115), entered the South China Sea on August 14 and conducted maritime air defense operations in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific. Those exercises included flight operations with fixed and rotary-wing aircraft as well as high-end maritime stability operations and exercises. The carrier and its embarked CVW-5 had recently competed joined integrated training with the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam, Navy Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 131 and the United States Air Force’s 35th Fighter Wing off the coast of Northern Japan.
“Integration with our joint partners is essential to ensuring joint force responsiveness and lethality, and maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific,” said U.S. Navy Commander Joshua Fagan. Commander Fagan serves as Task Force 70’s air operations officer aboard USS Ronald Reagan. “The recent integrated training between our carrier strike group and Air Force B-1s is the latest example of how we are continually working to stay synched with all of our joint partners and ready to respond to any contingencies throughout the region.”
CSW 5 has had a busy few weeks, and had also recently integrated with an Air Force B-1B Lancer that flew out of Andersen Air Force Base in Guam. The carrier and bomber conducted Joint War at Sea training to enhance joint readiness response capabilities. In early July the carrier strike group also operated in the region alongside the USS Nimitz Carrier Strike Group 11 (CSG 11), which consisted of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68), Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 17, the guided-missile cruiser USS Princeton (CG 59), the guided-missile destroyers USS Sterett (DDG 104), and USS Ralph Johnson (DDG 114).
USS Ronald Reagan had departed its homeport of Yokosuka, Japan and began a CSG patrol in the region at the end of June. The nuclear-powered Nimitz-class supercarrier was launched in March 2001 and commissioned in July 2003. CSG 5 is the only forward-based carrier strike group home-ported in Japan and is part of the U.S. Seventh Fleet.
The recent drills involving CSG 5 come amid heightened tensions between the United States and China, but the Navy has noted that it regularly conducts operations and exercises with other U.S. military branches in the Indo-Pacific to build and maintain warfighting readiness that is responsive, flexible, and honors enduring commitments to mutual defense agreements with regional allies and partners. Operations such as these in the South China Sea are meant to demonstrate enduring America’s commitment to its allies and partners and to create a cooperative approach towards regional stability as well as freedoms of the seas.
During its service, the USS Ronald Reagan has taken part in numerous exercises. However, one exercise that the Navy might like to forget is the 2005 war game involving Sweden’s first-in-class HSwMS Gotland. The Gotland is an advanced and extremely quiet diesel-electric submarine that was equipped with an air-independent propulsion (AIP) system. The submarine, which has been described as one of the quietest in the world, “ran rings” around the American carrier task force and made multiple attack runs on the U.S. Navy’s carrier and was never detected.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.