US Deploys Third Carrier Group In Asia To Boost "Naval Air Forces" In Disputed South China Sea

For a brief but tense period, two weeks ago the US found itself without a single aircraft carrier in any area of the globe. The absence of a deployed U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, long seen as a symbol of American power projection, was noteworthy because according to Fox, "it is believed to be the first time since World War II that at least one U.S. aircraft carrier has not been deployed."

However, things are gradually getting back to normal following the recent deployment of ships and units from the Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group, which departed San Diego for a regularly scheduled deployment to the western Pacific last week.

Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2, and embarked Destroyer Squadron (CDS) 1 deployed with Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain (CG 57) and Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Michael Murphy (DDG 112) and USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108).

The Vinson Strike Group is deployed to "support" the diplomatically tense situation in the Pacific Rim. According to Naval Technology, this new deployment is part of US Navy’s attempt to boost its naval air forces in disputed part of the Asian region.

"Our forward presence contributes to freedom of navigation and lawful use of the sea, as well as furthers operational training and enabling the exchange of culture, skills, and tactical knowledge," said Commander, CSG 1, Rear Adm. James W. Kilby. Ported in Pearl Harbor, Michael Murphy will join the Carl Vinson CSG later this month as the strike group makes their way to the western Pacific according to the Navy's website.

The Carl Vinson CSG deployed with approximately 7,500 Sailors and will focus on maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts. The strike group assets will conduct bilateral exercises in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region to include anti-submarine warfare, maneuvering drills, gunnery exercises, and visit, board, search, and seizure (VBSS) subject matter expert exchanges.

Carl Vinson also deployed with the embarked aviation squadrons of CVW-2 which include the "Black Knights" of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 4, the "Blue Hawks" of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 78, the "Bounty Hunters" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 2, the "Blue Blasters" of VFA-34, the "Kestrels" of VFA-137, the "Golden Dragons" of VFA-192, the "Black Eagles" of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 113, the "Gauntlets" of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 136, and the "Providers" of Fleet Logistic Support Squadron (VRC) 30.

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In Asia, the Carl Vinson will join the Carrier Strike Groups of the aircraft carriers USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74) from the U.S. Navy Third Fleet (currently back at home base in Kitsap-Bremerton in Washington) and the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) from the U.S. Navy Seventh Fleet (currently at home port in Yokosuka, Japan).

The South China Sea is also where China's only aircraft carrier, in a recent show of force to Taiwan, conducted naval drills in late December and early January.