Reflecting the Pentagon’s new focus on China, US aircraft carrier strike groups almost doubled deployments to the South China Sea in 2021 compared to the year before.
According to the Beijing-based South China Sea Probing Initiative (SCSPI), US carrier strike groups entered the South China Sea 10 times in 2021, compared with six times in 2020, and five in 2019.
“The US military have drastically reinforced their military deployment in the South China Sea since last year, in terms of training scales, sorties and scenarios,” SCSPI director Hu Bo said Friday, according to The South China Morning Post.
Hu said that the carrier training patterns have become “more complicated and unpredictable.” In the past, US warships typically entered the South China Sea through the Bashi Channel, a waterway between the Philippines and Taiwan. But Hu said over the past year, the US has diversified its routes, and the time span of the deployments varies.
The US shows no sign of slowing down its carrier deployments to the South China Sea. The US Navy’s Seventh Fleet said Monday that the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson just wrapped up joint operations in the disputed waters with an amphibious group led by the USS Essex, a landing helicopter dock ship.
“The USS Carl Vinson strike group fleet includes destroyers, frigates, submarines and supply ships. The new approach of warships sailing between island groups would also require US sailors to boost their skills in traditional terrestrial navigation,” the report underscored.
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F/A-18E & F-35C aboard the USS Carl Vinson, South China Sea. (📸Caden Richmond) pic.twitter.com/QCTm2VDtep
— Air Power (@MIL_STD) January 17, 2022