Three U.S. military aircraft carriers are heading to the same part of the world at the same time, to take part in a rare military exercise not seen in a decade.
The USS Ronald Reagan, based in Japan; the USS Theodore Roosevelt, based in San Diego; and the USS Nimitz, based at Naval Base Kitsap at Bremerton, Washington, will commence the strike force exercise in the Western Pacific Saturday through next Tuesday.
Units assigned to the strike force will conduct coordinated operations in international waters to demonstrate the U.S. Navy’s unique capability to operate multiple carrier strike groups as a coordinated strike force effort.
The three aircraft carriers are expected to link up in the Sea of Japan later this week off the Korean Peninsula, a U.S. defense official tells Fox News.
“It is a rare opportunity to train with two aircraft carriers together, and even rarer to be able to train with three,” said U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander, Adm. Scott Swift. “Multiple carrier strike force operations are very complex, and this exercise in the Western Pacific is a strong testament to the U.S. Pacific Fleet’s unique ability and ironclad commitment to the continued security and stability of the region.”
While at sea, the strike force plans to conduct air defense drills, sea surveillance, replenishments at sea, defensive air combat training, close-in coordinated maneuvers, and other training.
This is the first time that three carrier strike groups have operated together in the Western Pacific since exercises Valiant Shield 2006 and 2007 off the coast of Guam. Both exercises focused on the ability to rapidly bring together forces from three strike groups in response to any regional situation. Ronald Reagan took part in Valiant Shield 2006 and Nimitz took part in Valiant Shield 2007.
More recently, U.S. Navy aircraft carriers have conducted dual carrier strike group operations in the Western Pacific, including in the South China Sea, East China Sea and Philippine Sea. These opportunities typically occur when strike groups deployed to the 7th Fleet area of operations from the west coast of the United States are joined with the forward deployed carrier strike group from Japan.
According to The Associated Press, officials have said recently that the exercise is intended to demonstrate U.S. resolve with allies Japan and South Korea during the ongoing crisis with North Korea.
Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters in Hawaii in late October, before the dates of the exercise had been made public, that the three carriers were not targeting North Korea. He called their convergence in the area a “routine demonstration of our commitment to the region.”
For more than 70 years, the U.S. Pacific Fleet has been a persistent and stabilizing presence conducting operations throughout the region. The fleet is just as committed to maintaining those security commitments for the next 70 years.
The announcement made no mention of the exercise coinciding with President Donald Trump’s Asia trip, but the maneuvers are connected with a string of U.S. moves to showcase U.S. military strength as Washington and its allies put diplomatic pressure on Pyongyang to end its nuclear weapons program and cease the testing of ballistic missiles.
Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson and The Associated Press contributed to this story.