The USS Theodore Roosevelt (foreground) and USS Makin Island in the South China Sea. Navy photo

American naval power from San Diego was on full display in the disputed South China Sea on Friday when the Makin Island Ready Group joined the USS Theodore Roosevelt for maneuvers

The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier sailed in formation with the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island and accompanying cruisers, destroyers and amphibious warships.

The flotilla is bristling with over 100 jet fighters, helicopters and tiltrotors, as well as 5,000 embarked Marines from Camp Pendleton, demonstrating U.S. power to enforce freedom of navigation in international waters.

“Combining the capabilities of the carrier strike group with those of the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group sharpens our tactical skills and demonstrates our continued dedication to the security and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific,” said Rear Adm. Doug Verissimo, commander of Carrier Strike Group Nine.

“The combined Navy and Marine Corps team has been a stabilizing force in this region for more than a century and will continue to support all who share in the collective vision of peace, stability, and freedom of the seas,” he added.

China is fortifying tiny islands in the area and seeking to claim jurisdiction, while the Navy frequently transits the area, though seldom with a force this large.

“This expeditionary strike force fully demonstrates that we maintain a combat-credible force, capable of responding to any contingency, deter aggression, and provide regional security and stability in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific,” said Capt. Stewart Bateshansky, commodore of Amphibious Squadron 3.

Accompanying the Roosevelt and Makin Island are the guided-missile cruisers USS Bunker Hill and USS Port Royal, guided-missile destroyer USS Russell, and amphibious transport dock ships USS Somerset and USS San Diego.

All are based in San Diego, except the Port Royal, which is based in Pear Harbor.

The Theodore Roosevelt and its group departed San Diego on Dec. 23, while the Makin Island officially deployed in late November following training off Hawaii.

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Chris Jennewein

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