The Navy’s forward-deployed aircraft carrier left Japan to complete qualifications ahead of its spring patrol on Wednesday, U.S. Navy officials told USNI News.
USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) and its escorts departed Naval Fleet Support Activity Yokosuka, Japan, on Wednesday as part of Carrier Strike Group 5. The carrier left with guided-missile cruiser USS Shiloh (CG-67) and guided-missile destroyer USS Halsey (DDG-97), according to a statement from U.S. 7th Fleet.
CSG 5 will be joined by Carrier Air Wing 5, which will work with the crew of Reagan over the next several days to qualify the air wing and certify the flight deck ahead of the formal start of the patrol, USNI News understands.
The spring patrol will start as tensions between the U.S. and China continue to simmer, with Beijing delivering consistent rhetoric on how American operations in the Western Pacific are a destabilizing influence in the region.
“The Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group is excited to deploy and assume the watch during a time of unprecedented activity throughout the region,” Rear Adm. Will Pennington, CSG 5 commander, said in the statement.
“Alongside our regional allies and partners, we are ready to respond to any contingency in any location to demonstrate our shared commitment to regional stability and adherence to international norms.”
The carrier completed its annual repair period conducted by personnel from Puget Sound Naval Shipyard (PSNS) & Intermediate Maintenance Facility (IMF) Detachment Yokosuka and Norfolk Naval Shipyard and departed for sea trials earlier this month.
In November, Reagan completed a five-month-long patrol – the longest for a forward-deployed carrier in 20 years.
The 159-day patrol, which came as USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) was sidelined with a COVID-19 outbreak, was the longest since 1999. At that time, Forward Deployed Naval Force-based USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63) was out for 176 days in the Middle East and the Western Pacific, according to USNI News carrier deployment data.
Reagan’s patrol comes a day after Beijing issued public complaints about the transit of an American destroyer through the Taiwan Strait on Tuesday.
A Chinese military spokesman said Tuesday’s transit was “sending wrong signals to the ‘Taiwan independence’ forces, deliberately disrupting and sabotaging the regional situation and endangering peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”
Taiwanese defense officials have complained that People’s Liberation Army Air Forces planes have stepped up provocative flights in Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone.
In late March, a flight of 20 PLAAF bombers and fighters flew into the Taiwan ADIZ for an exercise to “simulate an operation against U.S. warships that sail through the Bashi Channel,” according to Reuters.