The aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan and its strike group are back in the South China Sea after an uncharacteristic side trip to U.S. 5th Fleet to support the withdrawal of U.S. and coalition forces from Afghanistan.

The carrier strike group is conducting fixed and rotary-wing flight operations, maritime strike exercises, anti-submarine operations and coordinated tactical training during this second visit to the South China Sea this deployment; it last operated there in June.

“We look forward to leveraging our recent out-of-area experience as we return to the South China Sea and our rapidly growing alliances and partnerships dedicated to the Indo-Pacific,” Rear Adm. Will Pennington, commander of Task Force 70 and Carrier Strike Group 5, said in a Navy news release.

“The deployment of Ronald Reagan carrier strike group to the Middle East and rapid seamless return to the Pacific highlight the flexibility and responsiveness of a premier maritime force and the power and reach of global coalitions dedicated to the stability provided by international law and rules based order,” Pennington said.

Carrier Air Wing 5, the embarked staffs of Task Force 70 and Destroyer Squadron 15, the guided-missile cruiser Shiloh, and the guided-missile destroyer Halsey comprise the Reagan CSG.

The deployment of the Reagan, homeported at Naval Station Yokosuka, Japan, kicked off in May. It entered the 5th Fleet’s area of operations at the end of June to relieve the aircraft carrier Eisenhower, which was on a double-pump deployment.

The Eisenhower got underway in February — just months after concluding its 2020 deployment — and conducted flight operations against the Islamic State in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, providing close air support for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

In addition to assisting with the Afghanistan withdrawal, the Reagan’s strike group also completed anti-submarine warfighting exercises in July aimed at bolstering “safety and familiarization between surface ships and submarines,” the Navy said.

The exercise included hunting simulated enemy submarines and performing long-range maritime strikes.

“Executing training between the carrier strike group and submariners is vital for maintaining the safety of US Navy vessels, and their crews, while ensuring interoperable warfighting capabilities in the air, on the surface and below the sea,” Lt. Joshua Clapper, the DESRON 15 submarine operations officer, said in a Navy news release.

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