Chinese, Russian Navies Remain Active Near Japan; Carrier USS Ronald Reagan Begins Spring Patrol

May 20, 2022 3:46 PM
USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) departs Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka (CFAY) for a regularly scheduled deployment, May 20, 2022. US Navy Photo

A Chinese surveillance ship and a Russian surveillance ship made separate transits through Japan this week.

The Chinese ship sailed through the Osumi Strait on Thursday, while the Russian ship sailed through La Pérouse Strait on Wednesday. The People’s Liberation Army Navy’s 41st Chinese Naval Escort Taskforce sailed through the Miyako Strait on Thursday while en route to the Gulf of Aden, according to Japan Ministry of Defense releases.

Russian surveillance ship RFS Pribaltica (80) was sighted at 5 a.m. sailing eastward, 120 kilometers west of Cape Soya, and subsequently sailed eastwards through La Pérouse Strait, Japan’s Joint Staff Office (JSO) said in a Wednesday news release.

The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force fast attack craft JS Wakataka (PG-825) and P-3C Orion Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) of Fleet Air Wing 2 based at JMSDF’s Hachinohe Air Base, Aomori, monitored the Russian ship.

On Friday, the JSO issued two releases, one stating that a PLAN Dongdiao-class surveillance ship, hull number 795, was sighted on Thursday at 9 a.m. moving westward, about 100 kilometers east of Tanegashima Island, and subsequently sailed west in the Osumi Strait towards the East China Sea. The ship was the same one sighted on April 20 traveling southeast in the sea area 160 kilometers northwest of Amami Oshima Island. Replenishment ship JS Hamana (AOE-424) and a P-1 MPA of Fleet Air Wing 1 based at JMSDF Kanoya Air Field, Kagoshima monitored the PLAN ship at the time.

On Thursday at 8 a.m., three PLAN ships – a destroyer, a frigate and a replenishment ship – were sighted 150 kilometers north of Miyako Island and subsequently proceeded southeast between Okinawa and Miyako Island into the Pacific Ocean, according to the JSO. It did not identify the ships by name, but the photos correspond to PLAN destroyer CNS Suzhou (132), frigate CNS Nantong (533) and replenishment ship CNS Chaohu (890), which form the 41st Chinese Naval Escort Taskforce.

A People’s Liberation Army Navy J-15 carrier fighter takes off from Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning (16) on May 20, 2022. Japanese MoD Photo

The PLAN has been sending an anti-piracy escort group to protect Chinese ships traveling through the Gulf of Aden since December 2008, with the 41st Taskforce leaving China on Wednesday morning, Xinhua reported. Support ship JS Amakusa (AMS-4303) monitored the PLAN group, the JSO said.

In other developments, the PLAN CNS Liaoning Carrier Strike Group appears to be currently operating outside of Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone in the Philippine Sea, as the JSO has not issued further releases on the CSG’s activities since Monday. The last release said Liaoning, with two of its Type 052D destroyers, was sighted 350 kilometers south of Okidaito Island at 9 a.m. on Sunday and conducted flight operations from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. with its embarked J-15 fighters and Z-18 helicopters.

Destroyer JS Suzutsuki (DD-117) monitored the ships, while Japan Air Self-Defense fighters scrambled in response to J-15 launches, according to the JSO release. Liaoning, together with the Type 055 destroyer CNS Nanchang (101); Type 052D destroyers CNS Xining (117), CNS Urumqi (118) and CNS Chengdu (120); Type 052C destroyer CNS Zhengzhou (151); Type 054A frigate CNS Xiangtan (531) and Type 901 fast combat support ship CNS Hulunhu (901), sailed into the Pacific Ocean via the Miyako Strait on May 2 and have been conducting carrier flight operations in the Pacific Ocean and Philippine Sea since May 4.

On May 4, two People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) H-6 bombers flew from the East China Sea, passed between Okinawa and Miyako Island, reached the Pacific Ocean, and subsequently turned over the Pacific Ocean and passed between Okinawa and Miyako Island again and headed into the East China Sea, the JSO said in a Wednesday news release. Japan launched JASDF fighters that shadowed the two aircraft.

Meanwhile, U.S. aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-72) departed Yokosuka on Friday for its 2022 spring patrol, U.S. 7th Fleet said in a news release.

Destroyers from Destroyer Squadron 15 and cruisers USS Chancellorsville (CG-62) and USS Antietam (CG-54) make up Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group.

While Reagan departs, USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) will make a port visit to Yokosuka on Saturday, Yokosuka City’s official website said in a news release. The Foreign Ministry had informed the city administration of the carrier’s visit on Friday.

Amphibious assault ship USS Tripoli (LHA-7) arrived at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan on Friday. Tripoli left Naval Station San Diego, Calif., for an independent deployment to the Western Pacific on May 2.

Dzirhan Mahadzir

Dzirhan Mahadzir

Dzirhan Mahadzir is a freelance defense journalist and analyst based in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. Among the publications he has written for and currently writes for since 1998 includes Defence Review Asia, Jane’s Defence Weekly, Navy International, International Defence Review, Asian Defence Journal, Defence Helicopter, Asian Military Review and the Asia-Pacific Defence Reporter.

Get USNI News updates delivered to your inbox