US aircraft carrier patrols contested South China Sea, shadowed by Chinese warships
A full-blown aircraft carrier group with USS John C. Stennis at the helm transited the Luzon Strait March 1 and is now conducting patrols in the South China Sea.
The news comes in the wake of U.S. Pacific Commander’s announcement that the U.S. Navy would increase its presence in the South China Sea. Admiral Harry B. Harris said the U.S. Navy would sail, fly and operate wherever international law allows.
The announcement was made in response to reports of Beijing’s actions the region. It has been said that China was “clearly militarising” the region by setting up missile launchers on the disputed islands.
According to the U.S. Navy, the John C. Stennis Strike Group (JCSSG) entered the region on March 1 and has maintained a location in the eastern half of these international waters for four days.
USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74), USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93), USS Stockdale (DDG 106) and USS Mobile Bay (CG 53) all conducted a replenishment-at-sea receiving advanced biofuel, aviation fuel and supplies from USNS Rainier (T-AOE 7). Flight operations have occurred daily with Carrier Airwing (CVW) 9 conducting 266 sorties.
Numerous People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLA(N)) vessels have remained in JCSSG’s vicinity during this time period.
Capt. Greg Huffman, Stennis’ commanding officer, said: “We have Chinese ships around us that we normally didn’t see in my past experience.
“Everything I have heard over bridge-to-bridge channels has been good communications between professional mariners,” he added.
In recent months, other U.S. Navy ships have conducted similar events in the 7th Fleet area of operations including the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54), USS Lassen (DDG 82), USS Preble (DDG 88) and USS McCampbell (DDG 85), the multi-purpose amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2), the amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48), the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG 62), and the Freedom-class littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth (LCS 3).
However, Chinese officials declared two such sails as provocations as they claimed that USS Lassen and USS Curtis Wilbur came too close to islands in the Spratly archipelago which China claims for itself.