The USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), USS Nimitz (CVN 68) and USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) carrier strike groups will commence a massive three-carrier show of force exercise off the coast of the Korean peninsula on Saturday. The drills, which coincide with President Trump’s Indo-Pacific tour, will demonstrate America’s unique ability to conduct multiple-carrier operations in the open seas, something few nations even have the necessary equipment to attempt.
America’s Nimitz class aircraft carriers are among the largest and most powerful in the world, second only to America’s latest carrier, the Ford Class, that the Navy took delivery of in May of this year. Each Nimitz class carrier measures more than a thousand feet long and displaces 97,000 tons of water. With a crew compliment that can exceed 5,000 and an average of 60 or so aircraft on board, one Nimitz class carrier is a formidable threat to any of our nation’s enemies. Seeing one of these behemoths in person can be daunting enough, watching three of them with accompanying compliment of destroyers, cruisers, and submarines, could be downright frightening.
Of course, that’s part of the intent of the drills, as there is little doubt that North Korea’s Supreme Leader, Kim Jong Un, will be watching the massive ships closely as they conduct exercises over the coming days. Of course, America’s carrier fleet is the largest in the world, but it is still extremely uncommon to see them in groups. In fact, this is the first time three carriers have come together anywhere in the world since 2007, in Exercise Valiant Shield off the coast of Guam.
“It is a rare opportunity to train with two aircraft carriers together, and even rarer to be able to train with three,” said U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander, Adm. Scott Swift. “Multiple carrier strike force operations are very complex, and this exercise in the Western Pacific is a strong testament to the U.S. Pacific Fleet’s unique ability and ironclad commitment to the continued security and stability of the region.”
The Navy plans to conduct air defense drills, sea surveillance, replenishments at sea, defensive air combat training, and close-in coordinated maneuvers over the coming days, placing not only America’s massive military presence, but also technical skill on display for the North Korean regime. Of course, following a troubled year for the Navy in the Pacific, including four separate incidents involving Naval vessels colliding with civilian ships or running aground, these drills are also intended to help refresh perceptions of America’s Navy in the Pacific at large.
In the wake of two deadly collisions over the summer, in which 17 sailors died, China’s state-owned newspaper “China Daily” published an editorial calling American vessels an “increasing hindrance” to merchant and commercial ships in the Pacific, before going on to call the U.S. Navy at large “a dangerous obstacle in Asian waters.” Of course, China’s rapid and aggressive expansion throughout the South China Sea can only be countered by America’s naval presence, so it can be assumed that their outrage was, at least in part, politically motivated.
If the Navy successfully executes this massive show of power, it may serve both as a means by which to nudge Kim closer to diplomacy, as well as an opportunity to restore some of the luster historically associated with America’s Navy. If, however, another embarrassing incident sullies the drills, the nation’s seafaring branch will have a hard time convincing the world that the U.S. remains a battle-ready presence in the world’s waterways.
Image courtesy of the U.S. Navy