On May 4, 2020, the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) triumphantly sailed out of her berth in Yokosuka, Japan alongside her escorts in preparation for a spring patrol in the Western Pacific. The move marks the end of a nearly month long period where the People's Liberation Army's Navy possessed the only aircraft carrier in the Western Pacific. During that time period, both the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) and USS Ronald Reagan were unable to preform their intended missions due to numerous COVID-19 cases and scheduled repairs.
In an interview with Stars and Stripes, Task Force 70 Commander Rear Adm. George Wikoff observed, "I think it means a lot not only to our sailors of our strike group but also to our nation as a whole and our partners and allies that we get Reagan back to sea and back out on deployment where she belongs."
The Regan Strike Group departs Japan at a time of increased Chinese military activity in the South China Sea. The up and coming power has used their period of superiority to threaten a Philippine naval vessel, sink a Vietnamese fishing boat, conduct a massive naval exercise, and intimidate the Malaysians from engaging in offshore natural resource development.
For decades, the Carrier Strike Group (CSG) has proven to be a principal element of US power projection. Usually composed of 7,200 personnel, an aircraft carrier, a carrier air group of 60 aircraft, at least one cruiser, a destroyer squadron, and an undisclosed number of submarines, it serves as a potent tool that can be wielded to great effect.
News of the Reagan's departure from Japan dwarfed the Navy's announcement that the USS Montgomery (LCS-8), and the Lewis and Clark-class dry cargo ship USNS Cesar Chavez (T-AKE-14) are also currently operating in the region. As a Surface Action Group (SAG), these ships recently conducted presence operations in international waters and airspace in the South China Sea.