US could put 5 aircraft carriers in China's backyard
US could put 5 aircraft carriers in China's backyard

The presence of almost half of the US aircraft carrier fleet in the Indo-Pacific underlines the importance of this region in the geopolitical chess game against China.

USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) passes through the Atlantic Ocean on March 19, 2023—US Navy photo.

The US Navy increases its presence in the Indo-Pacific, deploying nearly half its aircraft carrier fleet to deter China and reaffirm alliances.

The US strategy against China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific

In response to rising tensions with China, the US Navy plans to significantly deploy its naval power in the Indo-Pacific, positioning up to five of its 11 aircraft carriers in this critical region. This strategic maneuver seeks not only to deter Beijing’s actions but also to strengthen relations with allies and strategic partners.

Currently, three aircraft carriers, USS Carl Vinson, USS Theodore Roosevelt, and  USS Ronald Reagan, are already operational in the area. The first two have been part of joint exercises with the Japanese Navy in the Philippine Sea, highlighting military cooperation and readiness in the region. On the other hand, the USS Ronald Reagan remains in the port of Yokosuka ( Japan ) after completing a six-month deployment, ready to act in any contingency.

The USS Abraham Lincoln and USS George Washington are close to joining this deployment, with the latter completing a major upgrade and preparing to relieve USS Ronald Reagan. This concentration of forces projects a clear signal towards China, especially in the context of tensions in the South China Sea and  Taiwan affairs.

Geopolitical implications and challenges of aircraft carrier deployment in the Asia-Pacific

The presence of almost half of the US aircraft carrier fleet in the Indo-Pacific underlines the importance of this region in the geopolitical chess game against China. These deployments are a key piece in the United States ‘ power projection and defense diplomacy strategy to ensure stability and support regional allies.

Aircraft carriers, true floating cities with the capacity to house up to 100 aircraft, represent one of the most effective tools for projecting power. However, technological advancements such as hypersonic missiles pose new challenges for their operation near potentially hostile areas. The Navy must balance displayed might with the prudence necessary to protect these valuable assets, like the USS Gerald R. Ford, the most expensive ship in the fleet.

The US aircraft carrier fleet, composed of Ford and Nimitz class units, plays a crucial role in implementing American foreign policy and adapting to the demands of the current international scenario. Congress’s decision to keep 11 aircraft carriers operational reflects the importance of these vessels in the military and diplomatic strategy of the United States.