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McCain Taking ‘Hard Look’ at Forward Deploying Second U.S. Aircraft Carrier to Western Pacific

An F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to the Pukin’ Dogs of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 143 begins a supersonic flyby over the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) on Dec. 3, 2015. US Navy Photo

An F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to the Pukin’ Dogs of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 143 begins a supersonic flyby over the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) on Dec. 3, 2015. US Navy Photo

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) said his committee is taking a “hard look” at the case to deploy a second U.S. aircraft carrier to the Western Pacific.

“We should reconsider if our naval forces are postured for success,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said in an address to an audience at the U.S. Naval Institute’s Defense Forum Washington.
“We should take a hard look at recent studies that suggest more forward basing or stationing of forces in the Western Pacific, such as a second aircraft carrier, Amphibious Ready Group, or additional large surface combatants, that would enable greater overseas presence to deter, assure, and respond.”

The examination of a second carrier forward deployed in the Western Pacific – though not a new idea – was a key recommendation included in a report issued last month outlining the strain of the Navy and Marine Corps in their global responsibilities over the last decade and a half.

The high operational tempo has had the Navy fall behind in the maintenance of carriers and has led to some high profile gaps in carrier coverage while it comes back from the backlog.

Sen. John McCain, (R-Ariz.)

Sen. John McCain, (R-Ariz.)

“The backlog culminated in late 2015 with a Persian Gulf ‘carrier gap’ between the departure of the USS Theodore Roosevelt and the arrival of the USS Harry S. Truman. A second carrier gap will occur in the Pacific in 2016 and gaps will reoccur intermittently in both theaters until 2021, when the USS Gerald R. Ford becomes operationally available,” the November report from the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment said.

With a 12 carrier Navy, the deployment of a second carrier to the Western Pacific overlapping with the existing forces would allow for a 1.4 carrier presence in region with a four-month period in which two carriers could operate in the region.

The benefit would, in part, come from the carrier not having to make the months long transit from the West Coast.

The forward carriers would operate outside of U.S. Fleet Forces Optimized Fleet Response Plan (OFRP) and tack to the existing forward deployment scheme in use currently by forward deployed carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76).
Report author, naval analyst Bryan Clark, said Reagan’s current berth in Yokosuka, Japan could accommodate a second carrier and the current air wing for the carrier could be augmented to accommodate both ships with a variety of aviation detachments.

“Japan would be the best option to add a second carrier, if you wanted to do it quickly,” Clark said.
While McCain and Clark are calling for an examination of adding a second carrier forward, the Navy isn’t considering the option.

“There has absolutely been no conversation related to forward-deploying an additional carrier in Japan,” a Navy official told Defense News last month.

In addition to examining moving a second carrier to the Western Pacific, McCain continued his refrain on long-held frustrations with the emerging Gerald R. Ford-class next generation aircraft carrier (CVN-78).

“This program continues to be plagued by technology immaturity, concurrent development and production, and a lack of reliability test data for critical systems,” he said.
“This is unacceptable, and I fully expect the study of alternative aircraft carrier designs, mandated by this year’s [defense bill], to provide real options.”

  • Curtis Lee

    Two possible solutions:
    1. Recommission the USS Kittyhawk( Very little chance)
    2. Deploy LHDs/LHAs with AV-8Bs and F-35Bs only( To act of Light CVs/Sea Control Ships?)

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  • disqus_zommBwspv9

    Fortress Guam. There is a tender there already. Put a destroyer squadron there patriots, Marines already there. A 2nd carrier f-15’s F-16’s F-22′ B1B’s. B52 etc Air Refueling Tankers navy marine Airforce army all on fortress GUAM

  • PolicyWonk

    The senator didn’t happen to mention where all the $$$ required to forward base another carrier (and its escorts) is going to come from. A nice, if totally unrealistic thought. The HoR can’t get itself to pay for the military we currently have, let alone permanently deploying an entire CSG.

    If McCain really wanted to scare the daylights out of the ChiComs, then having the navy purchase a large fleet of AIP boats and forward basing them all around the S. China sea would definitely get their attention – as would announced sales of said AIP boats to Taiwan.

    And that can come for a far smaller price: we could easily purchase a fleet of well over 30 AIP boats for the cost of one USS Ford. And those could make the entire S. China Sea a very dangerous place.

  • 2IDSGT

    Japan and Australia between them have four ships capable of operating F-35Bs and functioning as light carriers (and Korea may be adding another in 2018). How abouts we NOT send another CVN and tell these countries to start contributing more to their own security.

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