Four powerful U.S. Navy warships are sailing toward North Korea to take up position off of the Korean Peninsula. According to a U.S. defense official and CNN, the USS Carl Vinson strike group was ordered to sail north after departing Singapore on Saturday, April 8, instead of heading to port in Australia. Kim Jong-Un has yet to issue a response to the movement.
What Is a Carrier Strike Group?
The carrier strike group that was sent is led by the USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70), a Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. Also part of the strike group are two Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, the USS Michael Murphy (DDG-112), and the USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG-108), and one Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser, the USS Lake Champlain (CG-57)
The Carl Vinson is the flagship of Carrier Strike Group 1 and is based at the Naval Base in San Diego. The massive warship is crewed by nearly 6,500 sailors, marines, and aviators. The carrier is also home to Carrier Air Wing 2(CVW-2) when it is abroad. CVW-2 is home to nine squadrons of U.S. Navy aircraft, including four strike fighter squadrons flying the F/A-18F Super Hornet, one electronics warfare squadron flying the EA-18G Growler, and four support squadrons of helicopter combat and early warning aircraft. In total, the Vinson can field over 60 aircraft at one time to pursue air-to-ground or air-to-air combat wherever they are needed.
The Arleigh Burke destroyers are also nimble and dangerous warships. They are equipped with a vertical missile launching system that can be outfitted with Tomahawk cruise missiles, the same kind that were used in the strike against Syria earlier in the week. They are also capable of firing surface-to-air missiles as well as Standard Ballistic missile defense missiles to protect themselves and the Carl Vinson. Each destroyer carries 56 Tomahawk cruise missiles, making them lethal at standard engagement ranges.
The Lake Champlain is also a powerful warship capable of launching Tomahawk missiles, but where the Ticonderoga class shines is in missile defense. The Champlain is capable of intercepting ballistic missiles outside of the earth’s atmosphere, knocking them out and rendering them harmless.
Positioning the Strike Group near South Korea gives President Trump the flexibility to both defend against a missile attack by North Korea or to preemptively launch an attack of his own.
Why Is the Strike Group Being Sent?
The move is a response to North Korea’s recent provocations in developing ballistic missile technology and nuclear capabilities.
The USS Carl Vinson was deployed to the area in March for joint military exercises with the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force, so its captain and strike force are familiar with the area. The move is not unexpected or uncommon, as PacWest fleet exercises are regularly held in the East China Sea.
President Trump ordered the carrier group’s deployment just after his meeting with Chinese president Xi Jinping. One of the key topics during their meeting was the North Korea problem. President Trump has gone on record earlier in the week as saying that the United States is prepared to handle North Korea on their own if China doesn’t exercise their leadership in the South Pacific.
For their part, the Chinese government has already asked both the United States and North Korea to work to defuse tension on the Korean peninsula. They want the United States to cease military exercises with South Korea and told North Korea they should suspend their nuclear weapons program.
The United States just finished joint military exercises with South Korea. In response, Kim Jong-un fired four ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan. It seems that neither side is listening to China at the moment.
The movement of the carrier strike group comes just after a unilateral attack on the Shayrat airbase in Syria. This airbase is where intelligence analysts believe the deadly chemical weapons attack on civilians originated. While the damage inflicted on the Syrian airbase was negligible, the attack itself sent a strong message to both China and North Korea – the United States under Donald Trump is not above unilateral action.
[Featured Image by MC2 Kelsey L. Adams/U.S. Navy]