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USS Ronald Reagan, JS Izumo Conduct Bilateral Exercises in South China Sea

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For the second time this month, the two flattops conducted naval drills in the contested waters.

The U.S. Navy Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force’s (JMSDF’s) largest flattop, the first-of-class JS Izumo, along with the Murasame-class destroyers, JS Murasame and JS Akebone, conducted bilateral exercises in the South China Sea on June 20.

“Reagan, Akebono, Izumo and Murasame practiced communication methods, tactical maneuvering drills and liaison officer exchanges designed to address mutual maritime security priorities and enhance cooperation efforts at sea,” the U.S. Navy said in a statement.

The USS Ronald Reagan and JS Izumo held a joint naval exercise earlier this month in the South China Sea.

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The JS Izumo’s annual Indo-Pacific deployment began April 30 and runs through July 10. The USS Ronald Reagan, the only forward-deployed U.S. Nimitz-class supercarrier and flagship of Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 5, departed the U.S. naval base in Yokosuka, Japan on May 22 for its first operational deployment of 2019.

Each CSG comprises up to 12 surface combatants including Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruisers, and one to two nuclear-powered fast attack submarines (SSNs), as well as up to 75 aircraft. The carrier’s air wing reportedly joined the Ronald Reagan CSG at sea.

 The JS Izumo and the JS Murasame held a joint naval exercise with the Vietnam People’s Navy (VPN) off the southeastern coast of Vietnam on June 17. During its Indo-Pacific deployment, the Izumo has been engaging with a number of regional navies, as I explained:

Last month, ships of the Indian Navy engaged with the JS Izumo and JS Murasame in an anti-submarine warfare (ASW) drill in the Andaman Sea.

The Indo-Japanese drill was preceded by a JMSDF-U.S Navy cooperative deployment in the Malacca Strait involving the USS William P. Lawrence, a U.S. Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, the JS Izumo, and the JS Murasame on May 22.

The two JMSDF warships also participated in a multilateral naval engagement between May 2 and May 8 in the South China Sea.

The Izumo-class has held a spotlight in the news for a couple of months now. As I reported elsewhere:

 U.S. President Donald Trump toured the JS Izumo’s sister ship, JS Kaga, at the Yokosuka naval base south of Tokyo, together with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last month. (…)

The two Izumo-class carriers are the JMSDF’s largest surface combatants each displacing around 27,00 tons when fully loaded. The flattops have been principally designed for ASW operations. In December 2018, the Japanese cabinet approved the conversion of the two warships into full-fledged aircraft carriers capable of launching the F-35B, the vertical or short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) variant of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

Japan is slated to procure up to 42 F-35Bs.



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