US Nimitz-class supercarrier deployed just 150 miles from China

In a move reminiscent of Nixon’s groundbreaking China visit, albeit on a less grand scale, the U.S. Navy’s Nimitz-class supercarrier, the USS Ronald Reagan [CVN-76], sailed into Vietnam’s Da Nang port on Sunday [the port of DaNang is located 150 miles from the nearest Chinese territory, the southern province of Hainan]. Accompanied by two guided missile cruisers, the visit was far from ordinary. 

US Nimitz-class supercarrier deployed just 150 miles from China
U.S. Navy photo by Tetsuya Morita

The USS Antietam and USS Robert Smalls joined the impressive aircraft carrier on this significant journey. The trio’s arrival marked the 10th anniversary of the U.S.-Vietnam “comprehensive partnership,” a milestone worth commemorating. 

Notably, this visit took place mere weeks after Hanoi lodged protests against a Chinese vessel encroaching on its waters. The timing of the U.S. Navy’s arrival surely adds an extra layer of intrigue to this unfolding maritime narrative.

Marking only the third instance of a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier gracing the waters of Southeast Asia, the USS Ronald Reagan – named after the late President – has made its debut visit. It follows in the wake of the USS Carl Vinson [CVN-70] which made a historic voyage in 2018, the first of its kind since the Vietnam War. Then came the USS Theodore Roosevelt [CVN-71] in 2020, a visit symbolizing a quarter-century of restored diplomatic ties between Hanoi and Washington. 

‘We are thrilled’

US Nimitz-class supercarrier deployed just 150 miles from China
Photo credit: US Navy

Initially, the USS Ronald Reagan’s visit was penciled in for last year, but an abrupt cancellation ensued, likely attributed to escalating tensions in the South China Sea. Now, this week’s arrival is perceived as a “positive expression” of Washington’s unwavering dedication to maintaining peace in the South China Sea. 

Rear Adm. Pat Hannifin, Commander of Task Force [CTF] 70/Carrier Strike Group [CSG] 5, expressed his excitement as the U.S. nuclear aircraft carrier sailed into Vietnam. He said, “We are thrilled to be here and are deeply appreciative of the warm reception our strike group has received.” Hannifin emphasized that such visits strengthen their partnership and commitment to addressing mutual maritime concerns while also offering their sailors a fantastic opportunity to immerse themselves in Vietnamese culture. 

Not only will this significant visit include cultural and professional exchanges, but it’s also packed with community service projects, sports competitions, and receptions. Adding a musical note to their venture, the U.S. Navy musicians from the U.S. 7th Fleet Band plan to serenade the public with free concerts. 

“Our crew of over 5,000 aboard the USS Ronald Reagan can’t wait to set foot in Da Nang and soak up the Vietnamese culture,” expressed Capt. Daryle Cardone, Ronald Reagan’s commanding officer. He further added, “While a few of our sailors hail from Vietnam, for the majority, this will be a brand-new experience.” The crew is also looking forward to volunteering at community events, competing in sports with local athletes, and partaking in a special culinary exchange.

US Nimitz-class supercarrier deployed just 150 miles from China
Video screenshot

Flexing muscles

Currently, the CVN-76, a U.S. Navy carrier based in Yokosuka, Japan, is the lone ranger patrolling the waters of the Indo-Pacific. Its partner in the Pacific, the N USSimitz [CVN-68], is presently stationed at Pearl Harbor. 

However, the region isn’t entirely left to CVN-76’s watchful eye. The USS America [LHA-6], an amphibious assault ship, has been making its presence felt in these waters too. Last week, it made a pit stop in Brisbane, Australia, for a short three-day visit. Despite being an assault ship, the USS America holds its own, matching the size of many foreign-operated carriers. 

But the USS America isn’t just in the region for a leisurely cruise. It’s gearing up to participate in the U.S.-Australian-led multinational exercise, Talisman Sabre 2023. Slated to kick off next month, this marks the 10th and largest iteration of the exercise so far. Participants can expect a wide range of activities, from field training drills and amphibious landings to ground force maneuvers and air and maritime operations. 

And it’s no small gathering either. Talisman Sabre 2023 will see more than 30,000 military personnel from 13 nations banding together, making it a significant event on this year’s military calendar.

A show of strength

Picture this: the USS Ronald Reagan, a ‘nuclear’ aircraft carrier, cruising into Vietnamese waters. It’s not just a routine patrol, it’s a bold statement to an increasingly assertive Beijing. 

Despite the U.S. Navy’s reduced size, Washington isn’t standing down. Instead, they’re building alliances, all with a single aim – ensuring peace and stability reign in the region.

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