US Third Fleet now Patrolling Asia with US Seventh Fleet amid Rising China Tensions
China will now have to contend with the formidable combat power of the U.S. Third Fleet with its four Nimitz-class nuclear powered aircraft carriers and its over 140 aircraft with the deployment of more of this fleet’s firepower to Asia as tensions escalate over China’s continuing provocations in the South China Sea.
The deployment of more U.S.Third Fleet ships to Asia keeps with President Barack Obama’s vow in 2011 to transfer 60 percent of the U.S. Navy’s fighting power to Asia to support his “Pivot to Asia.” This rebalancing of naval forces seeks to keep the peace in Asia in the face of what Obama sees as unwarranted Chinese aggression and China’s unfounded claim to own the South China Sea.
Traditionally responsible for the defense of the western sea approaches to the United States, the U.S. Third Fleet has joined the U.S. Seventh Fleet based in Japan to defend the United States’ national interests in Asia. Both fleets comprise the United States Pacific Fleet.
The U.S. Seventh Fleet is the largest of the forward-deployed U.S. fleets. It consists of 60 to 70 ships, 300 aircraft and 40,000 Navy and Marine Corps personnel.
Ships from both fleets are now patrolling the Pacific Ocean and other Asian waters, including the South China Sea. Last April, the Third Fleet’s Pacific Surface Action Group deployed its guided-missile destroyers (the USS Spruance and the USS Momsen) to East Asia off the coast of China.
The massive strengthening of U.S. naval power in Asia comes amidst “uncertainty and angst in the region,” said the commander of the United States Pacific Fleet, Admiral Scott Swift.
Admiral Swift wants the U.S. Navy to utilize the “total combined power” of the 140,000 sailors, 200 ships and 1,200 aircraft in the United States Pacific Fleet.
More ships from the U.S. Third Fleet based in San Diego, California will be deployed to Asia in the future. The vessels will conduct a range of unspecified maritime operations.
The four Nimitz-class carriers attached to the U.S. Third Fleet are the USS Nimitz (CVN-68) and Carrier Strike Group Eleven; USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) and Carrier Strike Group One; USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) and Carrier Strike Group Nine and USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74) and Carrier Strike Group Three.