Two U.S. Navy Carrier Strike Groups that teamed-up for dual-carrier drills this week in the South China Sea did not see any abnormal responses from China.
“We didn’t see anything significantly out of the norm with our two carriers coming together for this rendezvous,” Rear Adm. Doug Verissimo, who commands Carrier Strike Group 9, told reporters in a phone call Wednesday morning local time when asked about China’s response to the drills.
“We left Guam about a week ago. Nimitz was on their way home and it was a great opportunity to come together and the fact that we came together in the South China Sea was based on our navigation plan and making the most efficient route to and from our areas,” he added. “So we didn’t see anything beyond normal patterns of life when we were operating together over the past couple days.”
The Nimitz Carrier Strike Group and the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group linked up to perform dual-carrier drills in the South China Sea on Tuesday.
Asked about the message the dual-carrier exercises sends China, Carrier Strike Group 11 commander Rear Adm. Jim Kirk said the drills provide the Navy the chance to enhance readiness in the Indo-Pacific region.
“Our operations are not a response to any nation or any event. This was an opportunity for us to operate together, which helps us improve our readiness levels in the region,” Kirk said. “And really, that’s what it comes down to is whenever we get the change to put two aircraft carriers together, it makes all of our teams better.”
Both admirals said their respective CSG’s interactions with Chinese vessels in the South China Sea have been professional.
The Nimitz and Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Groups performed dual-carrier drills last June in the Philippine Sea. In the midst of the series of dual-carrier exercises last summer, the Chinese Navy participated in its own drills near the Paracel Islands.
China’s state-controlled Global Times on Tuesday published an article that described the dual-carrier exercises as “symbolic” and having “more political than military meaning.”
Verissimo, when asked about the article, disagreed and emphasized that the drills give sailors the chance to work with each other and see another strike group operate.
“Well, from my view at the tactical level, it’s not symbolic,” Verissimo said.
Verissimo stressed that dual-carrier exercises provide a unique chance for sailors.
“Aircraft carriers are not – we have very few and we operate across the globe. So the opportunity to bring carriers together – the sum of the whole is more than one plus one,” Verissimo said. “We get to explore and experience a longer fly day. We have our additive opportunities to disperse and distribute in order to paint a better picture and understand the space we’re operating in much better.”
The two CSGs were able to meet up for the exercises as USS Nimitz (CVN-68) heads to its homeport of Bremerton, Wash., after a lengthy deployment spent mostly in the Middle East.
“You don’t often get to see the mirror image of yourself as a carrier sailor,” Verissimo said. “So it was wonderful to see our running mates out there at another Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, working side-by-side.”
Verissimo said the dual-carrier drills help them work on command and control as the two strike groups operate together.
“It allows us to explore our experience as leaders at the flag level and it allows many of our sailors at the tactical level and our aviators at the tactical level to work with other units,” he said.