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US carrier Ronald Reagan enters South China Sea

USS Ronald Reagan in South China Sea
USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) sailing through the South China Sea on September 24. 2021. Photo: US Navy

US Navy aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and its carrier strike group are operating in the South China Sea for the second time during the 2021 deployment.

The carrier strike group (CSG) includes the Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) the embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5, and embarked staffs of Task Force 70 and Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 15, as well as the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Shiloh (CG 67).

The CSG entered the South China Sea on September 24 after concluding naval operations in US 5th Fleet, upholding maritime security and stability while Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5 provided airpower to protect US and coalition forces as they conducted drawdown operations from Afghanistan.

It should be noted that the USS Ronald Reagan is joining another aircraft carrier in the region, as USS Carl Vinson entered the South China Sea earlier this month. What is more, the UK Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth got underway from Guam this weekend and will be heading for South China Sea as the final destination of its maiden operational deployment.

HMS Richmond, a Type 23 frigate accompanying the carrier on the deployment, wrapped up a bout of East China Sea operations, including enforcing UN sanctions on North Korea, and is now headed for the South China Sea. The ship’s official Twitter account said the crew was now “en route through the Taiwan Strait to visit Vietnam and the Vietnam People’s Navy.

USS Ronald Reagan is returning to the region after a rare, three-month stay in the Middle East. The carrier started the return to its forward-deployed homeport in Japan on September 16, after supporting the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan.

“We look forward to leveraging our recent out-of-area experience as we return to the South China Sea and our rapidly growing alliances and partnerships dedicated to the Indo-Pacific,” said Rear Adm. Will Pennington, commander, Task Force 70, Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 5. “The deployment of Ronald Reagan carrier strike group to the middle east and rapid seamless return to the Pacific highlight the flexibility and responsiveness of a premier maritime force and the power and reach of global coalitions dedicated to the stability provided by international law and rules based order.”

While in the South China Sea, the strike group will conduct fixed and rotary-wing flight operations, maritime strike exercises, anti-submarine operations, and coordinated tactical training.

“Ronald Reagan and all components of its strike group have operated with relentless energy and commitment throughout the deployment, showcasing the strength and resilience of America,” said Capt. Fred Goldhammer, Ronald Reagan’s commanding officer. “As we continue our mission in the South China Sea, we remain vigilant and ready to answer the call.”