ANDAMAN SEA - The George Washington and John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Groups (CSGs) steamed together in the Andaman Sea Oct. 12, conducting integrated flight operations while also practicing surface and anti-submarine drills.
Located in the northeast edge of the Indian Ocean, the Andaman Sea narrows to form the Strait of Malacca, one of the most important shipping lanes in the world. Both CSGs have been conducting forward presence operations and port visits in the vital Asia-Pacific region for the past three weeks, but having two aircraft carriers operating together in the Andaman Sea is an unusual opportunity.
"The U.S. Navy routinely conducts dual-aircraft carrier operations in international waters when and where opportunities exist; however, I believe this is the first time it has been done in the Andaman Sea," said Capt. Greg Fenton, USS George Washington's (CVN 73) commanding officer. "These operations are vital in improving interoperability and readiness to respond across the full range of military operations from humanitarian assistance to combat missions."
The two CSGs conducted similar dual-carrier operations in late September near Guam following exercise Valiant Shield.
"Integrated operations are essential to our ability to effectively respond to any threat or crisis in the region," said Rear Adm. Chuck Gaouette, commander of the Stennis CSG. "As the Asia-Pacific region continues to grow in importance, we must ensure we are capable of operating in a complex environment in order to continue to promote peace, cooperation and stability here."
Consisting of more than 10,000 Sailors, 120 aircraft, four escort ships and a supply replenishment ship, both CSGs patrolled the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations over the last few weeks before conducting highly successful port visits.
USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) anchored in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia Sept. 30 for a four day port visit during which Sailors conducted numerous professional exchanges with the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) while also performing community service projects. Stennis then transited the Strait of Malacca and conducted a port visit in Phuket, Thailand. Sailors worked with the Royal Thai Navy, conducted community service events, and took some time to enjoy the local culture and cuisine.
After recently patrolling in the South China Sea, USS George Washington conducted a port visit to Port Klang, Malaysia on Oct. 7. Sailors continued advancing partnerships with the RMN by practicing Explosive Ordnance Disposal team training, conducting a medical subject matter exchange, and visiting the RMN's world class National Hydrographic Center in Port Klang.
Both aircraft carriers departed from their respective port visits in preparation for operating together in the Andaman Sea Oct. 12, the day before the U.S. Navy's 237th birthday.
"It seems appropriate that we have two of our 11 aircraft carriers working side-by-side as we celebrate the Navy's birthday," said Cmdr. Shawn Mangrum, Carrier Air Wing Five operations officer aboard the USS George Washington. "Working with another carrier air wing increases sortie generation and provides a more robust simulated threat environment and more realistic training."
The George Washington CSG is led by Rear Adm. J. R. Haley and consists of his Carrier Strike Group Five staff, Destroyer Squadron 15, Carrier Air Wing Five, the flagship aircraft carrier USS George Washington, the guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell (DDG 85) and the frigate USS Vandegrift (FFG 48).
The John C. Stennis CSG is led by Rear Adm. Gaouette and consists of his Carrier Strike Group Three staff, Destroyer Squadron 21, Carrier Air Wing Nine, the flagship aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis, the guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG 53) and the guided-missile destroyer USS Paul Hamilton (DDG 60). The group is also joined by the fast combat support ship USNS Bridge (T-AOE-10).