It’s a development that strikes fear in Pentagon circles — if its two big super carriers become sidelined by the coronavirus, no carriers presently deployed in the Pacific region can operate, raising readiness concerns down the line.
According to a report by Joseph Trevithick of The War Zone, two sailors onboard the Nimitz class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, which forward-deployed in Japan and presently pier-side there, have tested positive for Covid-19.
This comes just a day after the US Navy announced it had quarantined the entire crew of another aircraft carrier, the USS Theodore Roosevelt, on their ship in port in Guam after a number of sailors contracted the virus.
Fox News was first to report the pair of Covid-19 cases among Reagan‘s crew on March 27, the report said.
Fleet Activities Yokosuka, a US Navy base in the city of the same name, where the carrier is presently moored, will reportedly be on lockdown at least through the weekend, the report said. It’s not clear yet what other steps the service may take, such as quarantining the entire ship.
Though Japan was one of the first countries outside of China to report confirmed cases of Covid-19, the country has had success in limiting the spread of the virus, the report said.
However, the Japanese capital Tokyo, some 40 miles north of Yokosuka, saw a spike in cases this week and authorities had already advised all residents to stay home this weekend to help prevent an “explosion” of new infections.
It’s unclear what impacts the Covid-19 cases may have on Reagan‘s readiness. The ship is presently in port undergoing maintenance, the report said.
It is, however, still a worrying development that could leave the Navy with no forward-deployed carriers in the Pacific region. Together, Roosevelt and Reagan also represent a fifth of the Navy’s Nimitz class ships, the Navy’s only truly operational supercarriers.
With regards to Roosevelt, Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly stressed to reporters yesterday that the carrier was “operationally capable if called upon to do so.”
If that were to change, two of the Navy’s other West Coast-based carriers, the USS Abraham Lincoln and USS Carl Vinson, are not immediately available for operations in the Pacific, the report said.
Lincoln is in the post-deployment phase after spending a record amount of time in the Middle East earlier this year and Carl Vinson is in dry dock.
The Navy is now testing all of the more than 5,000 sailors on Roosevelt to determine how many additional cases there might be. The total number of sailors from the carrier confirmed to have contracted the virus has already jumped from eight to 25 in the past 24 hours, the report said.
There are now fears that the virus could spread further among personnel on Guam as individuals are brought ashore for treatment. “We’re f–ked,” one service member reportedly told The Daily Beast in regards to the developing situation there.
“I gave the fleet guidance and said, we have to do three things,” US Admiral John Aquilino, head of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, told USNI News on March 25. “The first is to ensure the health of our sailors and their families. The second is to ensure that we don’t spread this disease either to the homeland or to our allies and partners. And then the third is that we ensure we maintain our warfighting readiness.”
Meanwhile, the entire crew of one of the Russian Navy’s eight Project 949A Oscar II class guided missile submarines is reportedly in quarantine over concerns they may have been exposed to Covid-19, The War Zone reported.
B-port, an online Russian news outlet based in the northern port city of Murmansk, was first to report that the crew of the Oscar II class submarine Orel was in quarantine.
Russian Navy officials made this decision after learning that a civilian contractor who had visited the boat on official business had come into contact with another individual who tested positive for Covid-19, the reoprt said.
Orel is homeported at the Guba Bolshaya Lopatka submarine base, which is part of the larger Zapadnaya Litsa naval base, on the Kola Peninsula.
(UPDATE, Wednesday, 7 pm EST: The Navy plans to remove about 2,700 sailors from the USS Theodore Roosevelt within days, as government officials on Guam worked to secure hotel rooms, The Washington Post reported. The commanding officer, Capt. Brett Crozier, wrote that “decisive action is required,” “sailors do not need to die” and that if the Navy didn’t act, it was “failing to properly to take care of our most trusted asset — our sailors.”)