US Navy aircraft carriers USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) and USS Nimitz (CVN 68) along with their strike groups transit the Western Pacific with ships from the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force. US Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 3rd Class Anthony Rivera The US Navy had three aircraft carriers drilling near North Korea and the South China Sea while President Donald Trump toured Asia.
The Navy’s vice admiral in charge of naval aviation said the West Coast deployments underscore issues of readiness and could continue to cost for a long time.
Trump recently described the military as getting stronger, but it’s still recovering from low funding levels since the government shutdown in 2011.
The US Navy needs to “dig out of the hole we’re in,” as the force battles readiness risks to its home fleet, according to Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker, the commander of Naval Air Forces.
Shoemaker told the House Armed Services Committee on Thursday that he was going to use the Navy’s West Coast carrier deployments “as a call to action.”
“We are meeting the combatant commanders’ requirements for ready, lethal carriers and air wings forward, but at a tremendous cost to the readiness of our forces at home,” Shoemaker said.
Over the course of the year, the Navy has deployed three of its four West Coast-based carriers — Carl Vinson, Nimitz, and Theodore Roosevelt. To get the carriers up to par, the Navy needed to “cannibalize” parts, including some from East Coast-based forces, which may not have been necessary if the deployments hadn’t heavily favored one coast.
Two of the carriers — Nimitz and Theodore Roosevelt — were recently part of a once-in-a-decade show of force, operating side by side in the Pacific Ocean with the Ronald Reagan just a few hundred miles from North Korea.
The exercise added emphasis to President Donald Trump’s trip to Asia, where he spoke to heads of state about the need to crack down on North Korea and to enforce international law in the South China Sea. The cost of deployments
“To get Carl Vinson, Nimitz and Theodore Roosevelt ready to deploy in January, June and October of this year, and equip their embarked air wings with the required number of mission-capable jets, 94 strike fighters had to be transferred to and from the maintenance depots or between F-18 squadrons on both coasts,” Shoemaker told the House Armed Services Committee on Thursday, as the Washington Examiner notes .
“This included pulling aircraft from the fleet replacement squadrons, where our focus should be on training new aviators,” Shoemaker added.
The massive reshuffling of jets leaves non-deployed squadrons without planes to practice on, which will have “detrimental impacts to both retention and future experience levels” of those pilots, according to Shoemaker.
These deployments, Shoemaker said, caused “several hundred” parts to be “cannibalized,” or taken from other jets to fix the F-18s going on the carriers. The task decimated the “readiness of squadrons” and added “significantly and unnecessarily to the workload of […]