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Monday, February 20, 2017

'Flattop' USS Carl Vinson heads for South China Sea

She's a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier weighing 101,300 long tons; is 1,092 feet long; boasts two Westinghouse A4W nuclear reactors, 4 steam turbines and 4 shafts for propulsion, with a cruising speed over 30 knots; and her range isn't in miles, it's in time at 20 to 25 years! 

She's the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier with a crew of 6.062 sailors and air crew;  uses SLQ-32A(V)4 Countermeasures suite electronic warfare and SLQ-25A Nixie torpedo countermeasures; armed with two Mk57 Mod3 Sea Sparrows, three Phalanx CIWS; and two RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missiles. She carries 90 fixed winged aircraft and helicopters.

And she's on her way to the South China Sea over the weekend, accompanied by a guided-missile destroyer for the first time since President Trump took office.

The USS Carl Vinson was joined by the USS Wayne E. Meyer and Carrier Air Wing 2.

During his confirmation hearing in January, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said China should be denied access to their man-made islands in the South China Sea. The Chinese installed runways on three of these islands and bunkers to house fighter jets and bombers. We are closely watching them to determine if they deploy surface-to-air missiles (SAM) next. If they do, this could affect U.S. Navy operations in the region.

China warned us and other nations to tread carefully. "China respects and upholds the freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea, which countries enjoy under international law, but firmly opposes any country's attempt to undermine China's sovereignty and security in the name of freedom of navigation and overflight," their foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said.

International waters is 12 miles and the ships will probably respect that now. But these islands encompassing the Paracels, are artificial and appear to be set up as military installations. We've sailed close to them four times since October 2015: the first three missions challenged China's requirement for ships to obtain permission prior to transit in the area; the last one challenged their sovereignty over waters encompassing the Paracels.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis said that these types of operations will continue while also ensuring there is no military escalation occurring by China.

Cool heads will be needed by both sides. Let's just hope the orange one remains cool and clear and listens to his advisers.