by WorldTribune Staff, June 15, 2020
Three U.S. aircraft carrier strike groups are currently deployed in the Indo-Pacific, a news service report said.
The USS Theodore Roosevelt strike group, previously sidelined due to COVID-19, is operating in the Philippine Sea near Guam; the USS Nimitz strike group is in the Pacific off the U.S. West Coast; and the USS Ronald Reagan has left port in Japan and is operating in the Philippine Sea, according to The Associated Press.
Bonnie Glaser, director of the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), told the AP: “There have been some indications in Chinese writings that the United States was hit hard by COVID-19, that military preparedness was low, so perhaps there is an effort by the United States to signal China that it should not miscalculate.”
Each strike group includes cruisers, destroyers, jet fighters and other aircraft. The carrier battle groups are in addition to dozens of other U.S. Navy warships already deployed around the Pacific.
“This is the first time in nearly three years that three U.S. aircraft carriers are patrolling the Indo-Pacific waters and is a massive show of naval force in the region. It is also a sign that the Navy has bounced back from the worst days of the coronavirus outbreak,” the report said.
While the USS Theodore Roosevelt was sidelined by a coronavirus outbreak on the carrier, China dramatically increased its naval presence in the South China Sea. China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) deployed its two new, small aircraft carriers to the Spratly Islands, harassed Malaysian ships, and further reinforced its military outposts on its man-made islands, American Action News reported on June 13.
While the U.S. deployed numerous surface warships, including the USS America amphibious assault ship “Lightning Carrier,” to the South China Sea to perform Freedom of Navigation Operations and conduct joint training with allied nations such as Australia, no U.S. supercarriers had been operating in the Pacific for months.
Rear Adm. Stephen Koehler, director of operations at Indo-Pacific Command, told the AP that while it’s not likely there will be three carrier strike groups consistently in the Pacific over the long term, “it’s something we can do when we want to.”
Koehler added: “Carriers and carrier strike groups writ large are phenomenal symbols of American naval power. I really am pretty fired up that we’ve got three of them at the moment.”