The two U.S. airlines came to the region when China completed its own naval exercises near a controversial chain of islands. This obvious synchronicity was not lost in Beijing’s state media. They reported the country’s willingness to stave off any US attempt to question it.
Under the name Nimitz Carrier Strike Force, the American carriers, the USS Nimitz and the USS Ronald Reagan “conducted several tactical exercises to maximize air defense capabilities and increase the range of precision long-range attacks from aircraft carriers,” said a statement by the US Navy .
It is the first time since 2014 that two US airlines operate together in the South China Sea, and according to Lt. Cmdr. Sean Brophy, a spokesman for the Reagan.
“These efforts support the US̵
While the U.S. Armed Forces showed their exhibition on America’s Independence Day, the Chinese Navy of the People’s Liberation Army spent five days doing exercises around the Paracel Islands, known in China as Xisha, a chain that Vietnam and Taiwan also claim becomes.
Last Friday, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs described its drilling in the South China Sea as “sovereign and reasonable”, according to a post on the PLA website. Beijing occupies almost the entire 1.3 million square miles of the South China Sea as a territory and has built military fortifications on several islands in recent years.
As U.S.-China relations continued to deteriorate over the course of this year, Washington has steadily increased the pace of its operations in the South China Sea and has carried out navigational freedom operations near islands in Chinese hands involving US Air Force overflights and joint naval operations with partners such as Japan and Singapore.
However, the weekend’s deployment of the two airlines, each of which supports more than 60 aircraft and accompanying guided missile cruisers and destroyers, seems to be a clear statement that Washington will have no influence in the region on Beijing.
“Nimitz and Reagan are the most effective and agile force in the world. They support the United States’ commitment to mutual defense agreements with regional allies and partners, and promote peace and prosperity across the infopacific,” the U.S. Navy said.
Beijing has now classified the United States’ presence in the region as destabilizing. “Some countries outside the region often travel thousands of kilometers to the South China Sea to participate in large-scale military activities and demonstrate their power. This is the main reason that affects stability in the South China Sea,” said the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Friday.
A US advantage
U.S. analyst Carl Schuster, former operations manager at the U.S. Pacific Command’s Joint Intelligence Center, said the two-carrier exercises testify to a power that, at least for now, only the U.S. Navy has.
China has only one fully functional aircraft carrier, a second is approaching this status. However, neither of them has the size and ability to carry as many planes as the two U.S. Navy Carriers. And these two airlines just ended operations with a third, the USS Theodore Roosevelt, in the nearby Philippine Sea.
“The difference in the level of combat strength demonstrated between the exercises of the People Liberation Army Navy and the United States Navy will be noticeable. This sends both a military and a geopolitical signal to China and the region,” said Schuster. “The US Navy exercise shows who has the greater potential power.”
Schuster noted that operating two airlines in the South China Sea can be more complex than operating three in the Philippine Sea.
“The Philippine Sea is an open ocean, while the South China Sea is littered with competing air and marine space requirements,” he said.
In addition to the complexity, the United States increased its firepower in the current exercises with a B-52 bomber that flew with the carrier’s fighter planes. The bomber flew 28 hours nonstop from its base in Louisiana to participate in the exercises. This shows the ability of the U.S. Air Force to get assets to hotspots around the world quickly.
“This mission demonstrates our ability to reach from the home base, fly anywhere in the world and carry out these missions, quickly regenerate from an operational base, and continue operations,” said Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Duff, commander of the 96th Bomb Squadron in a statement.
In the Global Times report, China called US carriers “nothing more than paper tigers on China’s doorstep” and said Beijing has more than enough firepower to defend its positions in the South China Sea.
“The South China Sea is completely within range of the PLA, and any movement of US aircraft carriers in the region is closely monitored and targeted by the PLA, which has a wide range of anti-aircraft weapons such as the DF-21D, and DF-26 , both of which are considered “aircraft carrier killer” missiles, “the Global Times report said.
“Every US # aircraft carrier movement in the region is a pleasure PLA,” tweeted the Global Times along with pictures of the Chinese missile.
The US Navy quickly replied:
“And yet they are there. Two @ USNavy aircraft carriers operating in the international waters of the South China Sea. #USSNimitz & #USSRonaldReagan are not intimidated by #AtOurDiscretion,” tweeted the US Navy chief of information.