Why the U.S. Navy Has Two Aircraft Carriers in the South China Sea

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February 10, 2021 Topic: U.S. Navy South China Sea Region: Asia Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: ChinaAmericaU.S. NavyAircraft CarrierPLA NavyMilitary

Why the U.S. Navy Has Two Aircraft Carriers in the South China Sea

The two groups are operating together to practice warfare and to send a clear message of deterrence.

President Theodore Roosevelt had famously said “speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far” which was in reference to his foreign policy that included the ability to possess serious military capability that would force any adversary to pay close attention, and in his day that meant a world-class navy. With that in mind it is fitting that that this week the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group (CSG-9) began conducting dual carrier operations with the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group (CSG-11) in the South China Sea.

In terms of proverbial “big sticks” it doesn’t get much larger than two CSGs operating so close to Chinese waters. CSG-9 and CSG-11 last conducted dual carrier operations on June 21 of 2020 in the Philippine Sea.

According to the U.S. Navy, the ships and aircraft of the two strike groups coordinated operations in the highly trafficked region to demonstrate the U.S. Navy’s ability to operate in challenging environments. During the operations, the strike groups conducted a multitude of exercises that were aimed at increasing interoperability between assets as well as command control capabilities.

“Training with Carrier Strike Group 11 in the South China Sea is a tremendously valuable opportunity,” said Rear Adm. Doug Verissimo, commander, Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 9. “Through operations like this, we ensure that we are tactically proficient to meet the challenge of maintaining peace and we are able to continue to show our partners and allies in the region that we are committed to promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

The U.S. Navy has a long history of dual carrier operations, which are conducted to maintain U.S. readiness and combat-credible forces that can reassure U.S. allies and partners, while also working to preserve peace throughout the world.

“Working cooperatively alongside Carrier Strike Group 9 improves our collective tactical skill while ensuring regional stability and security,” said Rear Adm. Jim Kirk, commander, CSG 11. “We are committed to ensuring the lawful use of the sea that all nations enjoy under international law.”

Both CSGs are on scheduled deployments to the 7th Fleet area of operations. The 7th fleet is the U.S. Navy’s largest forward-deployed fleet, and it routinely interacts with thirty-five maritime nations while conducting missions to preserve and protect a free and open Indo-Pacific Region.

CSG-11 departed the Central Command area of responsibility in the Persian Gulf earlier in February, and as a result there are no U.S. carriers operating that area of operations. However, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III has suggested that the United States has “a robust presence in the Middle East,” with U.S. troops based across the Central Command region to counter any adversary.

The Nimitz CSG consists of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68), Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 17, guided-missile cruiser USS Princeton (CG 59), the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, USS Sterett (DDG 104), and Destroyer Squadron 9 and CSG 11 staffs.

CSG 9 consists of USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 11, the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG 52), Destroyer Squadron 23, and the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Russell (DDG 59) and USS John Finn (DDG 113).

It has been more than six months, since last July, when the U.S. Navy conducted dual carrier operations in the South China Sea—and that involved the Ronald Reagan and Nimitz CSGs, which actually had operated twice in those waters.

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.

Image: Reuters.