Seven out of a total of 11 US nuclear aircraft carriers are underway simultaneously for the first time in several years as President Donald Trump makes a visit to Asian nations, according to a report by USNI News which has been confirmed by the US Navy.
US defense officials say the large-scale carrier movements are part of unrelated operational readiness and training exercises or routine deployments.
The US Naval Institute-based website says that three US nuke carriers are presently on operational deployments in the Western Pacific with full air wings and carrier strike groups — the USS Ronald Reagan, USS Nimitz and USS Theodore Roosevelt.
Four more of the huge carriers have reportedly been deployed for “short training missions” as part of training operations or workups ahead of deployments. The ships include the USS Carl Vinson and the USS John C. Stennis which are operating in the Eastern Pacific. The USS Abraham Lincoln and the Navy’s newest carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford are currently operating in the Atlantic.
A Navy official confirmed the basic details of the carrier moves on Monday, to USNI News.
The carriers in 7th Fleet’s Pacific area could converge for the first simultaneous three-strike group training operations in a decade, defense officials have told USNI News.
But the Pentagon has downplayed its deployment of three carrier strike groups to the western Pacific, saying it has nothing to do with North Korea. “These three carriers are not there specifically targeting North Korea,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Joseph Dunford said last week. “This is a routine demonstration of our commitment to the region.”
If the exercise involving the strike groups takes place, it will happen against the backdrop of Trump’s ongoing 12-day Asian tour as tensions continue to mount with Pyongyang over its nuclear program.