U.S. Carriers Reagan and Roosevelt Join Pacific Valiant Shield 2024 Drills

June 10, 2024 3:22 PM
USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) transits the South China Sea in support of Valiant Shield 2024, June 7, 2024. US Navy Photo

The Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Groups conducted separate group sails on Friday in the South China Sea and Philippine Sea with partner nations to kick off the Valiant Shield 2024 exercise. Meanwhile, also on Friday, the Netherlands Defence Ministry accused Chinese attack aircraft and an attack helicopter of harassing a Royal Netherlands Navy helicopter operating from a frigate in the East China Sea monitoring North Korea for UN maritime sanctions violations.

In the Philippine Sea on Friday, carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76), together with U.S. 7th Fleet flagship USS Blue Ridge (LCC-19), cruiser USS Robert Smalls (CG-62), destroyers USS Higgins (DDG-76) and USS Rafael Peralta (DDG-115) joined Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) destroyer helicopter carrier JS Izumo (DDH-183), destroyer JS Haguro (DDG-180) and submarine JS Jingei (SS-515) and to carry out a formation sailing event. Jingei is Japan’s newest submarine, having been commissioned on Mar. 8 this year. Four F/A-18 Super Hornets from Carrier Air Wing 5 embarked on Reagan and U.S. Air Force aircraft consisting of two B-1 Lancer bombers, four F-22 Raptor fighters, four F-16 Falcon fighters, one RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft and one KC-46 Pegasus tanker, and Japan Air Self-Defense Force aircraft comprising of two F-2 fighters and two F-15 Eagles also conducted a flyover.

A Navy release stated that the formation sailing and flyover was part of the biennial Valiant Shield exercise and that, for the first time in its history, multinational, joint field training exercise focused on integration between U.S. and allied forces. “Over the coming days, our joint and combined forces will continue to hone our tactics and precise execution of those tactics to increase interoperability and lethality. This exercise expresses the full spectrum of capabilities we can bring to bear in our commitment to global peace and stability,” said Rear Adm. Greg Newkirk, commander, CSG 5 in the release.

In the South China Sea, carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71), destroyers USS Daniel Inouye (DDG-118), USS Halsey (DDG-97) and USS Russell (DDG-59) and amphibious dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry (LSD-49), together with French Navy frigate FS Bretagne (D655) and Royal Canadian Navy frigate HMCS Montreal (FFH 336) conducted a transit in support of Valiant Shield 2024 stated a DVIDS photo release.

Bretagne is making its way to Hawaii to take part in the Rim of the Pacific 2024 (RIMPAC2024) exercise from June 26 to Aug. 2. Montreal is on deployment in the Indo-Pacific as part of Operation Horizon, Canada’s ongoing forward-presence mission to promote peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific.

On Friday as well, the Netherlands Defence Ministry issued a release stating that earlier that day, in the East China Sea, two Chinese warplanes circled Royal Netherlands Navy frigate HNLMS Tromp (F803) several times, and during a patrol, the frigate’s embarked NH90 helicopter was approached by two Chinese fighter aircraft and a helicopter. “This created a potentially unsafe situation. The incident occurred in international airspace,” stated the release.

The Netherlands Defence Ministry also released photos on social media channel X, taken from the deck of the frigate, showing a JH-7 attack aircraft and Z-19 helicopter flying nearby.

Tromp was conducting patrols in the East China Sea in support of a U.N. multinational force overseeing the enforcement of maritime sanctions against North Korea as defined by U.N. Security Council resolutions, according to the release. A Japan Ministry of Defense release stated that Tromp carried out monitoring and surveillance activities from late May to early June and that this was the first time the Netherlands had conducted such activities. The frigate is on a deployment to the Indo-Pacific, called Pacific Archer 24, which will see it taking part in RIMPAC before heading home via the Panama Canal and the Atlantic Ocean.

Tromp on Sunday carried out the first ever bilateral exercise between the Royal Netherlands Navy and the JMSDF, drilling with destroyer JS Akebono (DD-108) with the two ships conducting tactical maneuvering and linking exercises in the waters west of the main island of Kyushu, according to a JMSDF release. Following the drills, Tromp docked into Nagasaki on Monday for a port visit.

Chinese warships and military aircraft have on several occasions harassed ships and embarked helicopters along with maritime patrol aircraft carrying out the surveillance and monitoring missions on North Korea, claiming such missions were cover for surveillance on China and its military and the action it takes are lawful and legitimate.

The most recent incident since Friday was on May 4, when a People’s Liberation Army Air Force fighter jet dropped flares in front of a Royal Australian Navy MH-60R over the Yellow Sea. The MH-60R was embarked on destroyer HMAS Hobart (DDG39), which was undertaking routine activities as part of Operation Argos – Australia’s contribution to the international effort to enforce UN Security Council sanctions against North Korea. China’s Ministry of National Defense counterclaimed that Hobart dispatched its helicopter on three occasions to conduct surveillance and “nuisance activities” on People’s Liberation Army Navy ships training nearby.

China so far has not issued any official statement on Friday’s incident as both the defense and foreign ministries do not conduct press response over the weekend and Monday is a public holiday in China.

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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