Ronald Reagan CSG Exercises With Land-Based Navy, Air Force Aircraft Off Japan

August 7, 2020 11:51 AM - Updated: August 7, 2020 1:46 PM
Aircraft fly in formation over the Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), on Aug. 5, 2020. Ronald Reagan, the flagship of Carrier Strike Group 5, provides a combat-ready force that protects and defends the United States, as well as the collective maritime interests of its allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific region. US Navy photo.

The Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group is conducting drills off the coast of Northern Japan with land-based Navy and Air Force units this week.

The CSG is operating with the Navy’s Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 131, which flies the EA-18G Growler electronic attack jet, and the Air Force 35th Fighter Wing that flies F-16 fighters. The joint integrated training operations began Aug. 1 and include air-to-air operations, combat search and rescue drills, and air defense exercises to increase interoperability and joint force capability.

“Our ability to integrate our Air Force brothers and sisters in the air anywhere in the Indo-Pacific theater is unmatched,” Capt. Michael Rovenolt, commander of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5 embarked on USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76), said in a Navy news release.
“Our integration provides enhanced capabilities and readiness in support of our enduring commitments to our allies and partners.”

An EA-18G Growler assigned to the “Lancers” of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 131 takes off from the runway at Misawa Air Base on Aug. 5, 2020. VAQ-131 is an expeditionary squadron deployed to Naval Air Facility Misawa supporting security and stability in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations. US Navy photo.

Last fall the Lancers of VAQ-131 became an expeditionary squadron that would “deploy to air bases worldwide and be required to fluidly integrate with [U.S. Air Force] and foreign entities daily. To assist with this transition the squadron took on USAF aircrew from the 390th Electronic Combat Squadron,” reads the Lancers’ website.

The squadron left the Growler hub at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash., in June and headed to Misawa, Japan, to operate alongside Air Force units already deployed there.

The squadron’s Facebook page notes they visited the carrier from a distance – flying by for training, but not actually landing on the deck.

“Improving interoperability with our Navy counterparts and increasing our collective capabilities better prepares the joint team to meet our commitments in the Indo-Pacific region,” Col. Jesse Friedel, the 35th Fighter Wing commander, said in the news release. “We are dedicated to building a networked security architecture capable of deterring aggression, maintaining stability and ensuring free access to waterways.”

“Integrating our mission sets, especially between VAQ-131 and the 13th and 14th Fighter Squadrons here, has been especially rewarding to witness, as both squadrons focus on the suppression of enemy air defenses,” he continued.
“Flying together provides the most accurate training sight picture for our aircrews, ensuring we can meet the needs of this region if and when called upon.”

An F/A-18F Super Hornet, attached to the Diamondbacks of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 102, prepares to launch from the flight deck of the Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) on Aug. 4, 2020. US Navy photo.

The Ronald Reagan CSG has its own Growler squadron and F/A-18E-F Super Hornet fighters, which were able to practice integrating with the land-based Navy Growlers and Air Force F-16s during the exercises.

Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5, based at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, is embarked aboard Ronald Reagan and includes a total of nine squadrons and detachments:

  • The “Royal Maces” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 27 from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni
  • The “Diamondbacks” of VFA-102 from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni
  • The “Eagles” of VFA-115 from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni
  • The “Dambusters” of VFA-195 from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni
  • The “Shadowhawks” of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 141 Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni
  • The “Tigertails” of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 125 from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni
  • The “Providers” of Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) 30 Det 5 from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni
  • The “Golden Falcons” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 5 from Naval Station Atsugi, Japan
  • The “Saberhawks” of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 77 from Naval Air Station Atsugi

The Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group also includes guided-missile crusier USS Antietam (CG-54).

Megan Eckstein

Megan Eckstein

Megan Eckstein is the former deputy editor for USNI News.

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