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US aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, amphib USS Essex drill in South China Sea

USS Carl Vinson USS Essex joint operations in SCS
Carl Vinson CSG and Essex ARG during joint expeditionary strike force operations in the South China Sea on January 13, 2021. Photo: US Navy

US Navy ships assembled around the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson and amphibious assault ship USS Essex wrapped up training maneuvers in the South China Sea on January 16, the service announced.

The training operations included integrated maritime strike missions, maritime interdiction operations, anti-submarine warfare, replenishment-at-sea and formation maneuvering/navigation operations.

USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) has been operating in the South China Sea since getting underway from San Diego in August last year as the first carrier strike group to deploy with the advanced capabilities of the F-35C Lightning II and Navy CMV-22B Osprey, the navy’s new carrier onboard delivery (COD) aircraft.

The Essex amphibious ready group (ARG) operated in the Gulf of Aden before meeting up with the Carl Vinson carrier strike group to become the first amphibious group to operate alongside the “advanced air wing of the future” (CVW 2).

CVW-2 is currently embarked aboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) and includes the F-35C, operated by the “Argonauts” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147 and the CMV-22B Osprey, operated by the “Titans” of Fleet Logistics Multi-Mission Squadron (VRM) 30.

The ESX ARG brings a host of Marine Corps air support to the operations including the “White Knights” of Marine Medium Tilt Rotor Squadron 165 (Reinforced) and the “Black Sheep” of Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 214. The “White Knights” operate the MV-22B Osprey, UH-1Y Venom, AH-1Z Viper and the CH-53E Super Stallions while the “Black Sheep” operate the AV-8B Harrier.

“Our ability to quickly and effectively integrate with an amphibious ready group, such as ESX ARG, demonstrates a diverse level of naval lethality that is unlike any other naval force,” said Rear Adm. Dan Martin, commander, Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 1.

“The long-range strike capability of the Vinson strike group combined with the Essex ARG’s potential to deliver a payload of Marines to any maritime region greatly contributes to the US strategic ability to continue defending a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

“Our opportunity to conduct integrated operations with Carl Vinson CSG this past week showcases the US Navy’s commitment to defending regional stability in the Indo-Pacific not only through our combined expertise and experience but through the differing capabilities of US Navy big deck platforms,” said US Navy Capt. Karrey Sanders, commodore of Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 1.

Photo: US Navy

The Essex ARG consists of PHIBRON 1 and the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU). PHIBRON 1 ships operating alongside in the South China Sea include landing helicopter dock USS Essex (LHD 2) and amphibious dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52).

Ships deployed with USS Carl Vinson include Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain (CG 57), and three Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers of Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 1: USS Michael Murphy (DDG 112), USS O’Kane (DDG 77), and USS Chafee (DDG 90).