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Military Capabilities

Three-carrier drill tests logistics, sends message

13 November 2017

The US Navy (USN) spent thousands of hours planning the convergence and drilling of three carrier strike groups (CSGs) in the Western Pacific at the same time, the first such exercise in about a decade.

“Lots of changes occurred,” Rear Admiral Gregory Harris, commander of Carrier Strike Group 2, told Jane’s aboard the CSG’s anchor ship, USS Nimitz (CVN 68), as the ship launched and recovered aircraft during the drills.Strike groups of the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), and USS Nimitz (CVN 68) manoeuvre with the Republic of Korea Navy during a three-carrier strike force exercise in the Western Pacific on 12 November. (Republic of Korea Navy)Strike groups of the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), and USS Nimitz (CVN 68) manoeuvre with the Republic of Korea Navy during a three-carrier strike force exercise in the Western Pacific on 12 November. (Republic of Korea Navy)

Nimitz is returning from deployment in the Middle East and Indian waters and will be replaced by the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), which is transiting to the regions. USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) is forward based in Japan and the ship’s commanding team has taken the lead on the three-carrier drills.

“We had to see what would make sense in terms of timing and speed,” Rear Adm Harris said.

But marrying up the ships at the same time was not even half the battle – other matters had to be carefully considered.

“Where are we going to operate?” Rear Adm Harris said. “There was laying out water space, air space. What are the major chess moves?”

The nuclear-powered carriers are protected by groups of fuel-burning surface ships, which have to be resupplied. “If you look at the logistics,” he said, “all of these surface vessels need gas and fuel. Just getting a boiler or tanker to the right spot is something”.

And the carriers themselves have their own individual issues that need to be addressed.

“Each is in a different point of its cycle,” Rear Adm Harris noted.

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