As part of the rebalancing strategy to increase the U.S. Navy’s presence in the Pacific, the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) will move from Norfolk, Va., to San Diego, the Navy says.
The service also is replacing the CVN-73 USS George Washington with the CVN-76 Ronald Reagan as part of the U.S. 7th Fleet forward-deployed naval forces (FDNF) in Yokosuka, Japan.
Nothing combines presence, power and flexibility on the sea like an aircraft carrier, Navy leaders say, and those ships will make the difference in the Asia-Pacific region.
“The poster ship for the rebalance is the [CVN-73 USS] George Washington Strike Group and whatever carrier follows it,” Pacific Fleet Commander Adm. Harry Harris tells the Aviation Week Intelligence Network (AWIN).
It is the carrier and its accompanying strike group that best represent the U.S. in the region, Harris says
Carriers not only provide power and punch, Navy leaders say, but also flexibility. For example, after the Philippines was ravaged by a typhoon, the George Washington became a launching pad for aircraft operations supporting humanitarian relief efforts.
“We put helicopters and  on there for the Philippines,” Rear Adm. Michael Manazir, Navy director of air warfare, tells AWIN. “There is not another weapon system with as much independence of maneuver as there is on a nuclear-powered carrier.”
If the U.S. values that kind of ability to provide humanitarian assistance, as well as perform other major forward-deployed missions, it needs to keep its fleet of 11 carriers, he says.
With the new carrier moves detailed earlier this month, the Theodore Roosevelt will serve as a U.S. 3rd Fleet rotational carrier, allowing the Ronald Reagan to depart its current homeport in San Diego and proceed to Yokosuka. The George Washington will depart Japan and proceed to Virginia in preparation for its mid-life refueling complex overhaul at Newport News Shipbuilding, Huntington Ingalls Industries.
Specific timelines will be announced separately, closer to the actual movement of the carriers.
The U.S. values Japan’s contributions to the peace, security and stability of the Indo-Asia-Pacific region and its long-term commitment and hospitality in hosting U.S. forces forward deployed there, Navy officials say, adding that those forces — along with their counterparts in the Japan Self-Defense Forces — make up the core capabilities needed by the alliance to meet common strategic objectives.
The security environment in the Indo-Asia-Pacific requires that the U.S. Navy station the most capable ships forward. This posture allows the most rapid response times possible for maritime and joint forces, and brings our most capable ships with the greatest amount of striking power and operational capability to bear, while increasing response flexibility.
The ship rotation will not necessitate a change in the assigned air wing, nor in the composition of the air wing. Carrier Air Wing 5 will remain the forward-deployed air wing located at Naval Air Facility Atsugi. This ship rotation also does not necessitate any changes to base facilities in either San Diego or Yokosuka.
The George Washington was the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier sent to Japan in 2008, as part of the FDNF.