The Navy now has three aircraft carriers and their attendant aircraft and ships in the waters of 7th Fleet, the U.S. military’s front line in the tensions between the United States and North Korea.
Navy officials said three carriers operating in the Japan-based command is a regularly scheduled part of a planned deployment cycle.
“It is not uncommon for incoming and outgoing carrier strike group transit timing to overlap as one begins a deployment and the other concludes,” according to a Navy statement.
Still, the carriers Nimitz and Theodore Roosevelt entered 7th Fleet waters this week. Navy releases for both arrivals state the carriers and their respective strike groups are scheduled for port visits and other operations, suggesting that neither is immediately on its way out of the region.
While Navy officials stress that having three carriers under the same forward command is business as usual, it comes at a time of heightened tension between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Seventh Fleet’s lone permanently stationed carrier, the Ronald Reagan, and its strike group arrived in the South Korean port city of Busan last week after naval exercises with South Korea aimed at increasing readiness against North Korea and maintaining stability.
The Nimitz, its strike group, air wing and destroyer squadron entered the sprawling 7th Fleet area of operations on Wednesday after concluding operations with the Bahrain-based 5th Fleet.
Nimitz and its group are scheduled for a port visit and will be ready to support operations in the region before heading home, according to a Navy release.
Nimitz deployed in June from its home port of Bremerton, Washington.
The Theodore Roosevelt and its strike group entered 7th Fleet waters Monday after leaving its San Diego home on Oct. 6.
Her deployment is scheduled to include operations in 5th Fleet waters as well.
“USS Theodore Roosevelt is prepared to carry out the full spectrum of possible mission, from humanitarian relief to combat operations,” the carrier’s CO, Capt. Carlos Sardiello, said in a Navy release. “When a carrier leaves on deployment, we have to be ready for anything.”
Seventh Fleet is the largest, and arguably busiest, of the Navy’s forward-deployed commands.
In addition to deterring North Korea and countering the presence of ascendant Chinese and Russian navies, 7th Fleet spans more than seven million square miles, from the India-Pakistan border east to the international date line, and from the Antarctic up to the Kuril Islands northeast of Japan.
Seventh Fleet has come under increased scrutiny this year after fatal summer collisions involving two of its destroyers, the Fitzgerald and the John S. McCain.
Geoff is a senior staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was most recently a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.