The aircraft carriers USS Ronald Reagan, USS Theodore Roosevelt and USS Nimitz with U.S. and Japanese warships. Navy photo

A rarely seen three-carrier force including the San Diego-based USS Theodore Roosevelt is finishing a major exercise in the Western Pacific, demonstrating the Navy’s unique ability to operate multiple carrier strike groups.

The three nuclear-powered supercarriers can launch nearly 200 fighter jets — more than the entire air force of most countries.

The United States operates 11 carriers and nine similar, but smaller amphibious assault ships; no other country operates more than two.

“The United States Navy is the only force in the world able to carry out such an exercise,” a Navy official said Monday.

The exercise involves the Roosevelt, USS Ronald Reagan and USS Nimitz and includes air defense drills, sea surveillance, replenishments at sea, defensive air combat training, close-in coordinated maneuvers and other training, Navy officials said.

Ships from Japan and South Korea joined the exercise, officials said.

“It is a rare opportunity to train with two aircraft carriers together, and even rarer to be able to train with three,” Adm. Scott Swift, the U.S. Pacific Fleet commander,

“Multiple carrier strike force operations are very complex,” he added.

The exercise is the first time three carrier strike groups have operated together in the Western Pacific since exercises Valiant Shield 2006 and 2007 off the coast of Guam, according to Navy officials.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.