Home Asia Pacific Japan-based carrier USS Ronald Reagan enters South China Sea

Japan-based carrier USS Ronald Reagan enters South China Sea

EA-18G Growler on USS Ronald Reagan
An EA-18G Growler launches from the flight deck of USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) in the South China Sea on June 14. Photo: US Navy

The US Navy’s Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group has entered the South China Sea for first operations in the region during its 2021 deployment.

Forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Shiloh (CG 67), and the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Halsey (DDG 97) entered the South China Sea on June 14.

Operations in the contested region will include maritime security operations, which include flight operations with fixed and rotary wing aircraft, maritime strike exercises, and coordinated tactical training between surface and air units.

“The South China Sea is pivotal to the free flow of commerce that fuels the economies of those nations committed to international law and rules based order,” said Rear Adm. Will Pennington, commander, Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group. “It is both a privilege and a pleasure to work alongside our allies, partners, and joint service teammates to provide full spectrum support to key maritime commons and ensure all nations continue to benefit from a free and open Indo-Pacific region.”

Most recently, the guided missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54) operated with Royal Australian Navy (RAN) Anzac-class frigate HMAS Ballarat (FFH 155) in the South China Sea, June 6 – 11. Wilbur and Ballarat demonstrated the Navy’s commitment to work with like-minded allies and partners to preserve international order in the South China Sea.

“In my 23 years in the Navy I’ve had the pleasure of working with the allied and partner forces from around the world,” said Senior Chief Operations Specialist Michael Ojeda, Assistant Operations, DESRON 15. “Integrating with other countries to conduct surface and undersea surveillance in support of our strike group operations serves to highlight that our allies reinforce our strategy in the Indo-Pacific region and around the world.”

The US 7th Fleet said in a statement that the strike group was committed to upholding US security agreements with regional allies and partners, as well as demonstrating the capability of forward-deployed naval forces to quickly respond to any contingency across the region.

Upholding freedom of the seas in the South China Sea is vitally important where nearly a third of global maritime trade, roughly 3.5 trillion dollars, a third of global crude oil, and half of global liquefied natural gas passes through the sea each year. Almost all of the South China Sea is claimed by China, with Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam contesting these claims.

The Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group is forward-deployed to the US 7th Fleet area of operations, calling the Yokosuka naval base in Japan its homeport. The carrier started the 2021 deployment on May 19.