For the first time in nearly four years, the US has deployed four aircraft-carrier strike groups at the same time. Two more carriers are conducting drills, making for six of 10 in the fleet participating in the operations. And one more carrier is preparing to be deployed.
The aicraft carriers are deployed at a moment of increased tensions in the South China Sea, high activity of the US-led military block, ‘NATO’ in Europe, and intensification of military operations in Syria and Iraq.
- The John C. Stennis group is continuing operations in and near the South China Sea. On June 4, the Ronald Reagan departed from Yokosuka, Japan. This aircraft-carrier strike group is to help the John C. Stennis keep the “peace and stability” in the region.
- The Harry S. Truman is in the eastern Mediterranean, conducting airstrikes against ISIS targets and deterring a “Russian agression”. And the Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft-carrier strike group, which departed from the US East Coast on June 1, is deployed to support “US national security interests in Europe.”
In late 2012 and early 2013, the US noticeably cut back deployments starting in response to spending restrictions, which were caused by mandated budget cuts under sequestration rules. Now, the US military is struggling to build up operating funds. Only in May, the US Navy informed Congress of an $848 million shortfall in fleet-wide readiness accounts. Ninety-one million dollars of these funds was a result of Truman’s deployment to operate in the Mediterranean. But despite the cost, the US Navy intends to increase deployment, especially in the Mediterranean Sixth Fleet region. The Pentagon describes this as an effort to counter the growth in Russian operations in the Middle East.
Meanwhile, the John C. Stennis has spent a significant time in the South China Sea, re-establishing US military presence as a counter to China’s extensive growth there. The Ronald Reagan aircraft-carrier strike group, located near the region, pursues the same goal. The US leadership believes that the Chinese programme of artificial islands in the South China Sea challenges the US dominance at the maritime routes. In turn, China sees its own efforts to set an area-denial for the US Navy in the South and East China Seas (and maybe in some other regions in the future), as the only answer to the US Navy capabilities overseas.
Both operations, in the Mediterranean and in the South China Sea, are pursuing the goal of displaying an advantage in naval power to its geo-political opponents, and inspire the allies in Europe, in the Middle East and in the Asia-Pacific region.