USS Carl Vinson with other ships
The USS Carl Vinson (lower left) and other San Diego-based ships train in the South China Sea. Navy photo

The Navy reported that the San Diego-based Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group and Essex Amphibious Ready Group completed a large exercise Sunday in the strategically important South China Sea.

The exercise involved the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, amphibious assault ship USS Essex, guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain, three guided-missile destroyers, dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor and various support vessels.

Stationed on the amphibious ships are members of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit from Camp Pendleton.

“Our ability to quickly and effectively integrate with an amphibious ready group, such as ESX ARG, demonstrates a diverse level of naval lethality that is unlike any other naval force,” said Rear Adm. Dan Martin, commander of Carrier Strike Group 1.

“The long-range strike capability of the Vinson Strike Group combined with the Essex ARG’s potential to deliver a payload of Marines to any maritime region greatly contributes to the U.S. strategic ability to continue defending a free and open Indo-Pacific,” he added.

The South China Sea is the focus of multiple Chinese territorial claims, and is regarded as the most dangerous potential area of conflict in Asia.

The Navy said the latest training included “integrated maritime strike missions, maritime interdiction operations, anti-submarine warfare, replenishment-at-sea and formation maneuvering/navigation operations.”

The exercises involved F-35C Lighting II stealth jets and F/A-18E Super Hornets from the Carl Vinson as well as AV-8B Harrier jets, MV-22B Osprey tiltrotors and AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters from the Essex.

Capt. Karrey Sanders, commodore of Amphibious Squadron 1, said the training involving what he termed “big deck platforms” demonstrates “the U.S. Navy’s commitment to defending regional stability in the Indo-Pacific.”

Chris Jennewein

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