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"Where is Task Force 34.
The whole world wants to know."
signal from Admiral Nimitz in Pearl Harbor
to Admiral Halsey, Battle of Leyte Gulf

Carl Vinson Strike Group WESTPAC 17
CVN-70 Carl Vinson
"Gold Eagle"

As of 26 APril 2017 USS Carl Vinson was underway in the Philippine Sea east Okinawa. The carrier was accompanied by the Wayne E. Meyer and Michael Murphy, which were not equipped with the Aegis system designed to track long-range missiles or SM-3 anti-missile interceptors. The destroyers Sterrett and Dewey were recently deployed to the Pacific, though they are not equipped with Aegis BMD. But the five destroyers homeported in Japan are equipped with Aeigis BMD.

Donald Trump said he had dispatched a carrier strike group to Korean waters. "We are sending an armada, very powerful. We have submarines, very powerful," Trump told Fox Business Network in an interview aired 12 April 2017.

The ships were reported to be timed to arrive just before April 15, the anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung, North Korea's founder. It could be predicted that North Korea will conduct "provocations" [missile and or nuclear tests] to demonstrate that it does not fear America. It seemed improbable that Trump could ignore such provovations, or refrain from some kinetic response [eg, shooting down DPRK missiles after they had been launched, etc]. Neither side would back down, both would feel the need to escalate, with no clear end in sight. At a minimum, this show of force would come on the eve of the Korean presidential election, though the impact on the election remained unclear.

Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jingping held telephone talks 12 April 2017 to discuss North Korea issues. Trump told Xi that a trade deal with the US will be far better for China if it solved the North Korean problem. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Trump has made it clear that he will not tolerate provocative actions by North Korea.

Donald Trump declared 11 April 2017 that "North Korea is looking for trouble" with its nuclear weapons development program and urged China to rein in Pyongyang. Trump, in a pair of Twits, said, "If China decides to help, that would be great. If not, we will solve the problem without them!" The threat of force against North Korea has gained new credibility following U.S. airstrikes against Syria for using chemical weapons on its own people. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the military strike against Syria was a warning to other countries, including North Korea, that "a response is likely" if they pose a danger.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the Vinson was "just on her way up there because that's where we thought it was most prudent to have her at this time.... There's not a specific demand signal or specific reason why we're sending her up there".

But the whole episode was fake news. When Trump boasted that he had sent an "armada" as a warning to North Korea, the aircraft carrier strike group he spoke of was still far from the Korean peninsula, and headed in the opposite direction. It was even farther away by 15 April 2017, moving through the Sunda Strait and then into the Indian Ocean.

Questioned on Wednesday 19 April 2017 at the daily White House briefing, press secretary Sean Spicer insisted the administration did not mislead anyone. "The president said we have an armada that's going toward the peninsula," Mr Spicer told reporters. "That's a fact, it happened. It is happening, rather." A combination of statements from military officials, the White House and media reports led many to believe the ship was immediately headed toward the Korean peninsula. With regard to the Carl Vinson, thats my fault on the confusion, and Ill take the hit for it, Adm. Harry Harris, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, later said.

It was not clear whether the mix-up was a deliberate deception, perhaps designed to frighten North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un, a change of plan or simple miscommunication. "If you threaten them and your threat is not credible, it's only going to undermine whatever your policy toward them is. And that could be a logical conclusion from what's just happened," said North Korea expert Joel Wit at the 38 North monitoring group.

Northeast Asia analyst Daniel Pinkston with Troy University in Seoul, said this policy of increased military pressure is not only weakened by mixed messages over deploying a naval strike force, but also by widespread opposition among important allies such as Japan and South Korea. "They are not going to support some military adventurism to take a gamble with the execution of some preventive military operation against North Korea. It's just not going to happen," said Pinkston.

Background

The distance from the Port of Singapore, Singapore to the Port of Busan (Pusan), in South Korea is 3,200 nautical miles. Assuming the Vinson strikegroup made best available speed, of about 30 knots, the sailing time would be about 4.5 days. With Vinson departing Singapore on 08 April 2017, the strike group would arrive in Korean waters 12-13 April 2017. April 15 is the anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung, North Korea's founder. And new launches of North Korean ballistic missiles, and possibly another nuclear test, are unlikely to be kept waiting.

The US Navy sent the strike group toward the Korean Peninsula to bolster the US presence and send a message to North Korea. "Third Fleet ships operate forward with a purpose: to safeguard U.S. interests in the Western Pacific," Commander Dave Benham, director of media operations for the U.S. Pacific Command Third Fleet said 08 April 2017. US Pacific Command ordered the Carl Vinson Strike Group north as a prudent measure to maintain readiness and presence in the Western Pacific, Commander Dave Benham, spokesman at US Pacific Command, said. The number one threat in the region continues to be North Korea, due to its reckless, irresponsible and destabilizing program of missile tests and pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability, he added.

Earlier this month, Trump suggested the US might take action unilaterally if China wasnt willing to do more. "If China is not going to solve North Korea, we will," Trump told The Financial Times on April 2. China will either decide to help us with North Korea or they won't. If they do, that will be very good for China, and if they don't, it won't be good for anyone." The decision to allocate naval reserves off the Korean Peninsula came after Trump and South Korea's acting President Hwang Kyo-Ahn spoke by phone on 08 April 2017. The two leaders reportedly agreed to remain in close contact over the South's troublesome neighbor.

National Security Advisor HR McMaster said on 09 April 2017 that sending the group is a prudent move, since North Korea "is a rogue regime that is now a nuclear-capable regime. McMaster told Fox News, "This is a rogue regime that is now a nuclear-capable regime. ... So the president has asked us to be prepared to give him a full range of options to remove that threat to the American people and our allies and partners in that region." McMaster said "Presidents before and President Trump agreed this is unacceptable, that what must happen is the denuclearization of the peninsula".

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, without directly naming North Korea, told ABC News, "If you violate international agreements, if you fail to live up to commitments, if you become a threat to others, at some point a response is likely to be undertaken." The fact that the US sent its carrier strike group to Korea immediately following Trump's summit with Xi indicates that Beijing probably did not succeed in getting the US to agree to hold direct talks with Pyongyang.

The Carl Vinson Strike Group was making a port call in Singapore and was scheduled to sail for Australia when US Pacific Command ordered the ships to sail north instead. In a statement on 08 April 2017, the U.S. Navy's Third Fleet said the strike group had been directed to sail north, but it did not specify the destination. The military vessels will operate in the Western Pacific rather than making previously planned port visits to Australia, it added. The USS Carl Vinson's presence in the region is meant to send a clear warning to North Korea, as concerns grow over the regime's potential advancements in nuclear weapons through recent missile tests according to Admiral Harry Harris, commander of U.S. Pacific Command.

Initial WESTPAC Deployment

Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 1, including Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 1's Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108), and aircraft from Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2, began routine operations in the South China Sea, Feb. 18.

Prior to their operations in the South China Sea, ships and aircraft from within the strike group conducted training off the islands of Hawaii and Guam to maintain and improve their readiness and develop cohesion as a strike group. The strike group recently enjoyed a port visit to Guam and after departing the Marianas, conducted operations in the Philippine Sea.

"The training completed over the past few weeks has really brought the team together and improved our effectiveness and readiness as a strike group," said Rear Adm. James Kilby, commander, CSG 1. "We are looking forward to demonstrating those capabilities while building upon existing strong relationships with our allies, partners and friends in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region."

Vinson last deployed to the Western-Pacific in 2015 and conducted a bilateral exercise with the Royal Malaysian Navy and Royal Malaysian Air Force in the South China Sea. Vinson first operated in the South China Sea in 1983 and in total, has operated there during 16 previous deployments over its 35 year history.

While deployed, the Carl Vinson CSG will remain under U.S. 3rd Fleet command and control, including beyond the international dateline, which previously divided operational areas of responsibility for 3rd and 7th Fleets. Third Fleet operating forward offers additional options to the Pacific Fleet commander by leveraging the capabilities of 3rd and 7th Fleets. This operational concept allows both numbered fleets to complement one another and provide the foundation of stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

CVW-2 includes the "Black Knights" of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 4, the "Blue Hawks" of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 78, the "Bounty Hunters" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 2, the "Blue Blasters" of VFA-34, the "Kestrels" of VFA-137, the "Golden Dragons" of VFA-192, the "Black Eagles" of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 113, the "Gauntlets" of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 136 and the "Providers" of Fleet Logistic Support Squadron (VRC) 30.

Ships and units from the Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group departed San Diego for a regularly scheduled deployment to the western Pacific, 05 January 2017. Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2, and embarked Destroyer Squadron (CDS) 1 deployed with Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain (CG 57) and Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Michael Murphy (DDG 112) and USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108).

The Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group returned to its homeport of San Diego after completing Composite Unit Training Exercise and Joint Task Force Exercise (COMPTUEX/JTFEX), 21 November 2016. During their time at sea, the unit conducted various exercises and completed evaluations to certify their ships as deployment ready.

COMPTUEX/JTFEX combined the strike group's entire assets through complex, scenario-based training exercises. The dynamic nature of COMPTUEX/JTFEX brought Sailors as close to the real world as is possible within a training environment. Speaking about the exercise, Commander, Carrier Strike Group 1 Rear Adm. James Kilby said COMPTUEX/JTFEX is the "graduation exercise" for a carrier strike group to deploy overseas.

COMPTUEX/JTFEX was a three-stage event, explained Kilby. During the first phase, which he labeled the "crawl" stage, the events were scheduled. Next, the exercise moved into the "walk" phase, in which he said the scenario-based training started.

"Finally, [in stage three,] we were challenged with an advanced threat in which we had to react and use our resources we had at hand," said Kilby. "We really challenged the strike group in this exercise. It's all about reaction and having to live with the decisions made during the evolution. The battle changes with the decisions we make." Team Vinson Sailors went through many evolutions during COMPTUEX/JTFEX. Emissions control environments, countless propulsion plant drills, live-fire exercises, and inspections were just some of the challenges COMPTUEX/JTFEX brought. Kilby went on to say the exercise utilized the strike group's anti-surface, anti-subsurface, anti-air, and electronic warfare capabilities.

Assets involved in COMPTUEX/JTFEX were Commander, CSG 1 embarked aboard Carl Vinson; Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2; the "Black Knights" of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 4; the "Blue Hawks" of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 78; the "Blue Blasters" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 34; the "Bounty Hunters" of VFA 137; the "Golden Dragons" of VFA 192; the "Black Eagles" of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 113; the "Gauntlets" of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 136; Commander, Destroyer Squadron 1; guided-missile destroyers USS Michael Murphy (DDG 112), USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108), USS Dewey (DDG 105), USS Sterett (DDG 104), and USS O'Kane (DDG 77); and guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain (CG 57).

While deployed, the Carl Vinson CSG will remain under U.S. 3rd Fleet command and control, including beyond the international dateline which previously divided operational areas of responsibility for 3rd and 7th Fleets. Third Fleet operating forward offers additional options to the Pacific Fleet commander by leveraging the capabilities of 3rd and 7th Fleets. This operational concept allows both numbered fleets to complement one another and provide the foundation of stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

"Our forward presence contributes to freedom of navigation and lawful use of the sea, as well as furthers operational training and enabling the exchange of culture, skills, and tactical knowledge," said Commander, CSG 1, Rear Adm. James W. Kilby.

Homeported in Pearl Harbor, Michael Murphy joined the Carl Vinson CSG later in the month as the strike group made their way to the western Pacific. The Carl Vinson CSG deployed with approximately 7,500 Sailors and will focus on maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts. The strike group assets conducted bilateral exercises in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region to include anti-submarine warfare, maneuvering drills, gunnery exercises, and visit, board, search, and seizure (VBSS) subject matter expert exchanges.

Carl Vinson also deployed with the embarked aviation squadrons of CVW-2 which include the "Black Knights" of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 4, the "Blue Hawks" of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 78, the "Bounty Hunters" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 2, the "Blue Blasters" of VFA-34, the "Kestrels" of VFA-137, the "Golden Dragons" of VFA-192, the "Black Eagles" of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 113, the "Gauntlets" of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 136, and the "Providers" of Fleet Logistic Support Squadron (VRC) 30.

The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, USS Carl Vinson, docked in South Korea's southeastern port city of Busan 14 March 2017 for the annual Foal Eagle military drills held by South Korea and the United States. The USS Carl Vinson left its home port of San Diego in January for the annual drills. It will remain in Busan and take part in various exercises over two weeks before heading to its next destination.

U.S. 3rd Fleet leads naval forces in the Pacific and provides the realistic, relevant training necessary for an effective global Navy. Third Fleet constantly coordinates with U.S. 7th Fleet to plan and execute missions based on their complementary strengths to promote ongoing peace, security, and stability throughout the entire Pacific theater of operations.

Aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2, Arleigh Burke -class guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108) and Ticonderoga -class guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain (CG 57) arrived in Singapore for a scheduled port visit, 04 April 2017. Prior to the visit, the Carl Vinson Strike Group (CSG-1) completed two weeks of routine operations in the Asia-Pacific region, including maritime exercises with the Republic of Korea Navy and Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force. The ship also operated in the South China Sea during this deployment.

The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) and embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2 departed Singapore after a scheduled four-day port visit, April 8. While in port, Carl Vinson Sailors hosted distinguished visitors, held a reception aboard the ship and experienced Singapores diverse and rich culture. Vice Adm. Nora Tyson, commander, U.S. 3rd Fleet, said she is proud of the relationship between the United States and Singapore, and noted the Singapore navys 50th anniversary. I think it is important that we pause to recognize the significance of the 50th anniversary of the Republic of Singapore Navy, said Tyson to more than 400 people gathered in the ships hangar bay. We in the U.S. Navy are proud to call you partners and friends.



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