In 2025, the US Navy plans to replace the USS Ronald Reagan, which is presently stationed in Japan and serves as the service’s sole forward aircraft carrier, with the USS George Washington.

The USS George Washington, which the USS Reagan replaced in 2015, is reportedly expected to be redeployed to Yokosuka with enhanced unmanned resupply capabilities to equip US forces to repel a potential Chinese invasion of Taiwan.

US Pacific Fleet spokesperson Lt. Brian Cunningham told Nikkei Asia that preparations are being undertaken to replace the currently deployed carrier. He continued by saying that information on the relocation cannot be made public until all necessary arrangements have been made.

The aircraft carrier USS George Washington was deployed to Yokosuka for seven years before the USS Ronald Reagan took her position in 2015. The aircraft carrier has been in Virginia for more than five and a half years for a mid-life repair and replenishment procedure. 

The Boeing MQ-25A Stingray requires several adjustments to the ship before it can be deployed. First, of its kind, the Stingray is a fully functional drone that can operate from a carrier.

Carrier Air Wing (CVW) and Carrier Strike Group (CSG) capabilities are improved by their aerial refueling and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities (CSG).

The US will deploy the first carrier-based drone to Japan.
USS George Washington

The aerial refueling capability will significantly increase the range of the carrier air wing.

In the case of China’s future invasion of Taiwan, this is an essential step in countering China’s anti-access/area denial policy, which is a key component of Beijing’s strategy against the United States. It consists of using various types of missiles to prevent the US Navy from entering waters near the Chinese coast.

The DF-21, a Chinese medium-range ballistic missile, is capable of destroying an aircraft carrier at close range.

In such a combat scenario, aircraft carriers must operate from a considerable distance. The MQ-25A allowed George Washington to send his carrier wing into hostile regions from a greater distance.

The new information came only days after the guided-missile destroyer USS Barry departed Yokosuka, Japan, and the destroyer USS Shoup took over their duties.

The United States Air Force decided late last year to pull all of its F-15C and F-15D jets out of Japan. To kick off a six-month cycle, he dispatched a few F-22 Raptors to Okinawa on November 4.

Why was the USS Ronald Reagan replaced?

A clause limiting the amount of time Navy warships can be deployed overseas was included in the US defense budget for the fiscal year 2019. Two collisions involving destroyers headquartered in Yokosuka in 2017 led to the implementation of this restriction.

In June, the Fitzgerald collided with a Philippine-flagged cargo ship south of Tokyo, marking the first of 2017’s incidents that led to the decision to move forward-deployed ships. Seven Fitzgerald sailors were killed in the tragedy, and three others were injured.

A month later, 10 US sailors were killed and 48 injured when the John S. McCain collided with a Liberian-flagged tanker off the coast of Singapore and Malaysia. The two mishaps cost the US ships $300 million and $100 million in damage, respectively.

More than a decade had passed since the USS Fitzgerald, and USS John S. McCain had been stationed in Yokosuka. Thus, Congress determined that more regular rotation was required to maintain the condition of battleships.

In the 2019 defense budget, Congress prohibited the forward deployment of aircraft carriers, amphibious ships, cruisers, destroyers, frigates, and littoral combat ships for more than ten years.

Under this regulation, the United States Navy expects to replace Ronald Reagan within ten years. The mainstay of US naval power, aircraft carriers have crews of more than 5,000 and can hold up to 90 aircraft. 

The US Navy authorized modifications to the compartments and structure of the USS George Washington as part of the military budget for the fiscal year 2019.

The decision was taken with the anticipation that the ship would return to Yokosuka after undergoing maintenance to help with the MQ-25 deployment. The US Navy aims to deploy MQ-25s on all aircraft carriers of the Nimitz and Ford classes.