Nimitz Carrier Strike Group Back in South China Sea, Chinese Carrier Still on Pacific Patrol

April 17, 2023 6:08 PM
Chinese carrier CNS Shandong (17) operates in the Philippine Sea. JSDF Photo

The Nimitz Carrier Strike Group is in the South China Sea and the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group is operating in the Sulu Sea, according to the USNI News Fleet and Marine Tracker. Meanwhile, the People’s Liberation Army Navy Shandong Carrier Strike Group continues its training patrol in the Pacific.

The Nimitz CSG is operating in the South China Sea, conducting training among surface, air, and undersea assets, as well as flight operations with fixed and rotary wing aircraft, according to a Navy news release issued Sunday.

“The Nimitz Carrier Strike Group is fulfilling a promise to our allies and partners in the region – we aren’t going anywhere,” Rear Adm. Christopher Sweeney, the commander of Carrier Strike Group 1, said in the release. “Our presence in the region reinforces open sea lines of communication and the rules-based international order. Our commitment to our allies and partners in the region remains ironclad as we promote a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

This is the third time the CSG has operated in the South China Sea during its deployment to the Indo-Pacific, the release noted.

The Nimitz CSG deployed from the West Coast on Dec. 3 and entered U.S. 7th Fleet on Dec. 16. It was previously operating in the East China Sea and the Philippine Sea after departing the port of Busan, Korea on April 2 following a port visit. The CSG joined a trilateral exercise with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and Republic of Korea Navy in the East China Sea in early April.

The current composition of the CSG in the South China Sea is carrier USS Nimitz (CVN-68) with embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 17, cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG 52), and destroyers USS Decatur (DDG 73) and USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108). Destroyer USS Chung-Hoon (DDG-93), which is part of the CSG, arrived in Subic Bay, Philippines on Saturday for a port visit, while USS Paul Hamilton (DDG-60), the remaining destroyer in the CSG, is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations and left Eilat, Israel on Thursday following a port visit.

An F/A-18F Super Hornet from the ‘Fighting Redcocks’ of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 22 taxis aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN-68) conducts flight operations on April 8, 2023. US Navy Photo

The Makin Island ARG – made up of USS Makin Island (LHD-8), USS Anchorage (LPD-23), USS John P. Murtha (LPD-26) and the embarked 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit – is now in the Philippines as part of the U.S.-Philippines Balikatan exercise that started on April 11. The exercise includes more than 17,500 troops from several countries. On Sunday, Makin Island exercised in the Sulu Sea off the coast of Palawan with Philippine Navy ships. The Makin Island ARG concluded participation in the U.S-ROK exercise Ssang Yong 2023 on April 3 and made its way to the Philippines for the start of Balikatan.

On Monday, destroyer USS Benfold (DDG-65), JMSDF destroyer JS Atago (DDG-177) and ROKN destroyer ROKS Yulgok Yi I (DDG-992) carried out another trilateral ballistic missile defense exercise in the Sea of Japan. The drills are meant to test out network connection and ballistic missile information sharing between the three Aegis-equipped destroyers and improve tactical capabilities and joint capabilities against ballistic missiles, according to a JMSDF news release.

“Repeated ballistic missile launches, including ICBM by North Korea, seriously threaten peace and security of Japan, East Asia, and the international community, which is not acceptable” the release reads.

The three countries last carried out a BMD exercise in the Sea of Japan on Feb. 22 in response to North Korean missile launches. Monday’s exercise comes after separate B-52 bomber deterrence flights on Friday over South Korea and Japan in response to North Korea launching and testing a new solid fuel intercontinental ballistic missile on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Japan continues to track the Shandong CSG, with the Joint Staff Office (JSO) of the Ministry of Defense issuing a release on Monday detailing the CSG’s location and composition from April 10 through Sunday, along with the total number of flight activities carried out by the CSG during that period. Japanese destroyers JS Sazanami (DD-113) and JS Asagiri (DD-151) shadowed the PLAN CSG. The Shandong CSG carried out 140 launches and recoveries of its J-15 fighters and 70 helicopter take-offs and landing in that period, according to the JSO. Japan Air Self-Defense Force fighter aircraft scrambled in response to the J-15 launches. The location and composition of the CSG are as below.

Date and Time Location Composition
Monday April 10

Around 8 pm

240km south-southwest of Miyako Island carrier CNS Shandong (17)
cruiser CNS Yan’an (106)
destroyer CNS Jiaozuo (163)
frigate CNS  Liuzhou (573)
fleet oiler CNS Chaganhu (905)
Tuesday April 11

Around 8 pm

290km south of Miyako Island carrier Shandong
cruiser CNS Yan’an
destroyer CNS Jiaozuo
frigate CNS  Liuzhou
fleet oiler CNS Chaganhu
Wednesday April 12

Around 8 pm

220km south of Miyako Island carrier Shandong
destroyer Jiaozuo
frigates CNS Xuchang (536) and
fleet oilers Chaganhu and CNS Luomahu (907)
Thursday 13 April

Around 8 pm

460km south-southeast of Miyako Island carrier Shandong
frigates Xuchang and Liuzhou
fleet oilers Chaganhu and Luomahu
Friday 14 April

Around 8 pm

520 km southwest of Okinotorishima carrier Shandong
frigates Xuchang  andLiuzhou
fleet oiler Chaganhu
Saturday 15 April
Around 8 pm
370km southeast of Okinotorishima carrier Shandong
destroyer Jiaozuo
frigates Xuchang and Liuzhou
fleet oiler Chaganhu
Sunday 16 April
Around 8 pm
710km south-southeast of Okinotorishima carrier Shandong
destroyer Jiaozuo
frigates Xuchang and Liuzhouf
fleet oiler Chaganhu
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.

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