The U.S. Navy has said that the Ronald Reagan carrier strike group had returned to the South China Sea after it was deployed for two months in the Arabian Sea to help the U.S. withdraw troops from Afghanistan.
“We hope to be able to take advantage of the recent experience we have accumulated outside of the region as we return to the South China Sea, as well as to our rapidly growing partners and alliances in the Indo-Pacific region,” said Rear Admiral Will Pennington, commander of the Fifth carrier strike group.
In addition to the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76), the strike group includes Carrier Air Wing 5 (3 F/A-18 squadrons, 2 MH-60 squadrons, 1 C-2A squadron, 1 EA-18G squadron and an E-2D squadron), troops from Task Force 70 and the Destroyer Squadron 15, along with the Ticonderoga guided-missile cruiser, USS Shiloh.
This is the second time that the Ronald Reagan CSG has operated in the South China Sea.
“While in the South China Sea, the task force will conduct operations with fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters, sea strike drills, anti-submarine operations, and combined tactical training,” the U.S. Navy said.
“The Task Force will work with a network of partners and allies to ensure maritime security and the free flow of commerce in the Indo-Pacific”.
Previously, the Ronald Reagan (the only US aircraft carrier in the Asia-Pacific) was sent to the Middle East to replace another aircraft carrier that had to return for routine maintenance in July.
This is the first time in many years that the US did not have an aircraft carrier strike group stationed in the Asia-Pacific. This is also the first time the USS Ronald Reagan has left the Pacific Ocean since 2015.
In recent years, US warships have regularly sailed through the South China Sea. This is a move to challenge China and gauge its reactions for tactical purposes. China has been criticized for its sovereignty claims in the South China Sea by the U.S. and it’s allies.