The aircraft carrier Carl Vinson and a Japanese helicopter destroyer have teamed up to operate in the South China Sea — the first time the Vinson and Japanese forces have done so during the Vinson’s 2021 deployment.

The Vinson and units from Carrier Strike Group 1 are conducting flight operations, coordinated tactical training between surface and air units, refueling-at-sea evolutions, and maritime strike exercises with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force’s JS Kaga helicopter destroyer as of Oct. 25 in the South China Sea, according to the U.S. Navy.

“Bilateral operations are one key component in our collective maritime readiness,” Rear Adm. Dan Martin, commander of Carrier Strike Group 1, said in a Navy news release Monday. “The Indo-Pacific is a dynamic region and by continuing to conduct routine operations with our allies and partners throughout international waters and airspace, we demonstrate our unwavering commitment to upholding international law, on the sea and in the air, and to ensuring that all nations can do the same without fear or contest.”

Those operating with the Vinson in the South China Sea are guided-missile cruisers Lake Champlain and Shiloh, and guided-missile destroyer Stockdale, along with nine squadrons of Carrier Air Wing 2.

The Vinson and its carrier strike group departed San Diego to start its 2021 deployment in August ― the first deployment including the F-35C Lightning II fighter jet and the CMV-22 Osprey, and the second time a carrier strike group with such capabilities has operated in the South China Sea, the Navy said.

The carrier, which was last in the South China Sea in September, underwent a 17-month docking planned incremental availability in 2019 at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington to update the ship for the F-35C before returning to San Diego in 2020.

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