U.S. Has Three Aircraft Carriers in West Pacific for First Time in a Decade

  • Navy also deployed a SEAL-carrying submarine to region
  • U.S. says arrival is part of previously planned cycle

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The U.S. Navy has three aircraft carriers and their assorted missile-carrying vessels operating in or deploying to the western Pacific Ocean for the first time since 2011 as tensions with North Korea remain high and President Donald Trump prepares to depart for Asia next week.

The milestone neared as the USS Nimitz and its strike group maneuvered in the Indian Ocean en route to the Pacific after operating in the Middle East, according to the Navy. The USS Theodore Roosevelt strike group, including a cruiser and three destroyers, entered the Western Pacific region Oct. 23, joining the USS Ronald Reagan.

The high-profile deployments are part of a larger build-up. In addition to the aircraft carrier strike groups, capable of launching Tomahawk cruise missiles, the Navy announced Oct. 13 that the USS Michigan -- one the service’s four specialized submarines for carrying as many as 66 Navy SEAL commandos and 154 Tomahawks -- arrived in Busan, South Korea.

“U.S. Navy Carrier Strike Groups routinely deploy to the Western Pacific and the Indian Ocean,” according to a service statement. “These deployments are part of a previously planned deployment cycle and it is not uncommon for incoming and outgoing carrier strike group transit timing to overlap as one begins a deployment the other concludes."

Still, it’s a rare occurrence to have three battle-groups jointly exercising in the Western Pacific at once. The last time the Navy had a similar joint exercise was in 2007, according to the service, when the USS John C. Stennis, USS Nimitz and USS Kitty Hawk participated in the Valiant Shield exercise.

(Navy corrects statement to say the three carrier groups are not all in the Western Pacific yet and that the last time they had three in the region at the same time was 2011, not 2007.)
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