The Pacific will soon see a rare show of military force, as two of the largest warships ever built, along with their accompanying entourage of Naval vessels, will commence joint training operations as early as Wednesday.
The USS Carl Vinson, which has been in the proximity of the Korean Peninsula for weeks as a result of increased tensions between North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un, and a coalition of nations led by the United States intent on seeing Kim’s nuclear aspirations dashed, will be joined by another massive Nimitz Class aircraft carrier, the USS Ronald Reagan, in the Sea of Japan.
While this unusual meeting of aircraft carriers in not entirely unprecedented, it is fairly uncommon, as each massive vessel and accompanying strike group can deliver an incredible amount of American firepower alone. The United States Navy has ten Nimitz Class carriers, distributed around the globe to ensure free passage of international commerce and as a means of force projection for the U.S. military. Truly, a single U.S. Navy Carrier Strike Group can rival the entire military of many nations around the world through sheer firepower and the use of advanced military technologies.
The two strike groups are expected to conduct joint training operations hundreds of miles off the coast of the Korean Peninsula, and formally, they are not intended to be conveying any message in particular to Kim’s North Korean regime, but formal message may be unnecessary when two 102,000 ton warships, each more than three football fields long, are parked on the horizon – let alone accompanying guided missile destroyers, nuclear submarines, and the like.
The joint training operation is scheduled to last only a few days, before the USS Carl Vinson is scheduled to begin sailing home to San Diego. At that point, it can be expected that the USS Ronald Reagan will assume the role as America’s military presence at Kim’s door for the foreseeable future. The carrier class’s namesake, the USS Nimitz, it scheduled to make its way through the region soon as it travels from its home port in Bremerton, Washington to a deployment in the Persian Gulf, once again doubling the presence of aircraft carriers near the Korean peninsula as it travels.
Each Nimitz class carrier houses upwards of 5,000 crew members and can launch a fleet of 45 F/A-18C Hornets and F/A-18E/F Super Hornets. Beyond the carriers themselves, both the Carl Vinson and the Ronald Reagan are accompanied by guided missile destroyers, Aegis destroyers, Ticonderoga-class cruisers, and usually at least one nuclear attack submarine to shadow the group of vessels and combat any enemy submarines that may hope to engage them.
North Korea has continued its pursuit of capable ballistic missiles, with tests occurring on a near-weekly basis recently. Some tests have demonstrated a higher level of technological capability than was previously believed to be in North Korean possession, heightening concerns that they may soon have the ability to field truly intercontinental ballistic missiles.
As a result of concerns regarding a nuclear strike coming from North Korea, the United States executed a test of its Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) missile defense system on Tuesday. The test was designed to see how well the GMD interceptors are able to locate and destroy a mock-nuclear warhead in low earth orbit. The intercept was set to take place over the Pacific Ocean on Tuesday, with results expected to come from the Department of Defense on Wednesday morning.
Image courtesy of Reuters