SHOWING their unique capability to operate multiple carrier strike groups in close proximity, ships and aircraft assigned to USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) and USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) strike groups started dual carrier flight operations over Philippine waters on Saturday, the US Navy Task Force 70 said.
According to the task force, while at sea, the strike groups conducted air defense drills, sea surveillance, replenishments, defensive air combat training, long-range strikes, coordinated maneuvers and other exercises.
“This is a great opportunity for us to train in a high end scenario. We must take advantage of these opportunities to practice war-fighting techniques that are required to prevail in modern naval operations,” Rear Admiral John Alexander, commander of Battle Force 7th Fleet and Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 5, said in a statement.
The drills were held at the eastern part of the Philippines or in the area not bordering the West Philippine Sea (South China sea) but “close” to the disputed waterways.
It was conducted as The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) is expected to hand down a ruling early next month on a complaint filed by the Philippines against China.
Earlier, the first temporary detachment of US Navy EA-18G Growler airborne electronic attack aircraft arrived at Clark Air Base in Pampanga province, north of Manila, for a training with Philippine Air Force pilots.
The detachment is composed of four aircraft and about 120 personnel assigned to the VAQ 138 expeditionary squadron based at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Washington.
Previous VAQ 138 detachments like this one have completed deployments to locations throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific and participated in several exercises with allies and partners.
The US Navy said, as a Pacific nation and a Pacific leader, “the United States has a national interest in maintaining security and prosperity, peaceful resolution of disputes, unimpeded lawful commerce and adherence to freedom of navigation and overflight throughout the shared domains of the Indo-Asia-Pacific.”
It added that for more than 70 years, the US Navy has been a stabilizing presence conducting operations throughout the region on a daily basis.
“Rear Adm. Alexander and I first flew together as a crew in an A-6 carrier-based aircraft in July 1988. Today, we continue that long history as our two Carrier Strike Groups maneuver together in the Philippine Sea. No other Navy can concentrate this much combat power on one sea or synchronize the activities of over 12,000 sailors, 140 aircraft, six combatants and two carriers. It was truly impressive, and it is an important operational capability,” said Rear Admiral Marcus Hitchcock, commander of CSG 3.
US Navy aircraft carriers have conducted dual carrier strike group operations in the Western Pacific including the South China Sea, East China Sea and Philippine Sea for several years.