Aircraft carrier strike groups Nimitz, Reagan team up in Philippine Sea

June 29 (UPI) — Integrated exercises by strike groups of aircraft carriers USS Nimitz and USS Ronald Reagan are underway in the Philippine Sea, the Navy announced.

“Coordinated operations in international waters” began on Sunday in the Indo-Pacific region, a Navy statement said.

The USS Nimitz, with its complement of aircraft and escort ships, also paired with the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt and its strike group of aircraft and accompanying destroyers and cruisers earlier this month in the Philippine Sea.

With the USS Ronald Reagan nearby at the time, it was the first time since 2017 that three aircraft carriers of the U.S. Seventh Fleet were together in proximity of the contentious South China Sea.

The show of force comes as China aggressively lays claim to the islands there, despite counterclaims by neighboring countries, officials said.

“Only the U.S. Navy can integrate a carrier strike force on this scale and consistently project power to protect freedom of the seas,” said Rear Admiral James Kirk, commander of Carrier Strike Group 11, which is aboard the USS Nimitz. “With more than 10,000 U.S. Navy Sailors from across the world working together as one cohesive team, these operations are what keep us ready to respond to any contingency.”

The Nimitz Carrier Strike Group consists of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz, Carrier Air Wing 17, the guided-missile cruiser USS Princeton and the guided-missile destroyers USS Sterett and USS Ralph Johnson.

The Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group includes the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, Carrier Air Wing 5, the guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam and the guided-missile destroyer USS Mustin.

The Nimitz Strike Group left San Diego for deployment in early June.

The USS Theodore Roosevelt resumed its deployment on June 4 after it was diverted to Guam to deal with an onboard COVID-19 breakout.

The USS Ronald Reagan, whose homeport is Yokusuka, Japan, also left port in early June.

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