US Navy carrier strike group starts South China Sea patrol

Two F/A-18E Super Hornets from the “Kestrels” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 137 fly by the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70). Photo: US Navy

U.S Navy’s aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson and the attached carrier strike group entered the South China Sea and started patrols in the disputed region, the U.S. Navy announced on February.

The start of “routine operations” comes a week after Beijing warned the U.S. not to challenge China’s sovereignty in the South China Sea.

What is more, according to media reports, China is considering maritime law changes that could possibly require foreign ships to obtain China’s permission to enter its waters. Additionally, submarines would likely have to surface while transiting Chinese waters.

Prior to starting the patrol, USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), together with guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108), and aircraft from Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2, trained off the islands of Hawaii and Guam to maintain and improve their readiness and develop cohesion as a strike group.

The strike group recently enjoyed a port visit to Guam and after departing the Marianas, conducted operations in the Philippine Sea.

Vinson last deployed to the Western-Pacific in 2015 and conducted a bilateral exercise with the Royal Malaysian Navy and Royal Malaysian Air Force in the South China Sea. Vinson first operated in the South China Sea in 1983 and in total, has operated there during 16 previous deployments over its 35 year history.

“The training completed over the past few weeks has really brought the team together and improved our effectiveness and readiness as a strike group,” said Rear Adm. James Kilby, commander, CSG 1. “We are looking forward to demonstrating those capabilities while building upon existing strong relationships with our allies, partners and friends in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.”

While deployed, the Carl Vinson CSG will remain under U.S. 3rd Fleet command and control, including beyond the international dateline, which previously divided operational areas of responsibility for 3rd and 7th Fleets. Third Fleet operating forward offers additional options to the Pacific Fleet commander by leveraging the capabilities of 3rd and 7th Fleets. This operational concept allows both numbered fleets to complement one another and provide the foundation of stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

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