USS Ronald Reagan Enhances Air Power Presence in the Philippine Sea: A Signal to China?
The US Navy consistently engages in training and readiness drills near Taiwan, demonstrating its commitment to regional stability.
The USS Ronald Reagan, the formidable aircraft carrier of the US Navy, is actively asserting its presence and closely monitoring China’s activities in the Pacific. Now on patrol in the Philippine Sea and stationed in Japan, the carrier offers a robust air attack and maritime strike capability, easily within striking distance of China’s shores and territorial waters.
Images released by the Navy of the USS Ronald Reagan emphasize two crucial factors concerning China’s deterrence: proximity and timing. The key to preventing a swift, unexpected Chinese onslaught on Taiwan hinges on these elements. In the event of China deploying a series of ballistic missiles, initiating aerial attacks from its frequent operations in Taiwan’s Air Defence Identification Zone, or commencing a vast air-land-sea invasion, the US Navy, together with its allies, needs to be sufficiently nearby. The primary challenge is responding before Chinese naval vessels, amphibious units, and aircraft traverse the 100-mile distance from China’s coast to Taiwan. While aerial surveillance, using drones or satellites, might detect significant Chinese troop concentrations, effectively countering a speedy Chinese advance necessitates the immediate response of US and allied sea-launched 5th-generation jets.
This strategic consideration underscores the frequent US Navy drills near Taiwan, and it elucidates the rationale behind the dual-carrier activities in the Pacific earlier this year. The objective remains clear: display the capacity to deploy a formidable air attack force within a striking range of Taiwan’s waters.
While China might boast a numerically superior naval force, its People’s Liberation Army – Navy has a limited presence of ocean-launched 5th-generation aircraft. Consequently, any large-scale amphibious assault on Taiwan, irrespective of its magnitude and fortifications, is at a strategic disadvantage without air dominance. The US Navy has the edge with its ability to deploy carrier-based F-35Cs and amphibious-launched F-35Bs. For instance, America-class amphibious assault vessels can carry up to 15 VTOL F-35Bs. Hence, the US Navy is poised to attain aerial supremacy over Taiwan swiftly, provided they are in the vicinity before any potential occupation by adversarial forces. Understandably, the Navy stresses the importance of maintaining a forward posture in the Pacific.
Navigating the USS Ronald Reagan through the Philippine Sea is a strategic move, given the present geopolitical landscape, the strong bond between the Philippines and the US, and their closeness to both Hong Kong and Taiwan. A glance at geographical metrics shows Manila, the Philippine capital, is 612 miles from Taiwan and 701 miles from Hong Kong. With just one refuelling stop, whether from a manned tanker or an MQ-25 Stingray drone, strike aircraft can easily reach the South China Sea, mainland China, or Taiwan. Planes taking off from the Ronald Reagan could potentially land either in the Philippines or Taiwan, enabling them to further execute combat operations in the area.