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Tuesday, November 30, 2021
U.S. Admiral calls for more carriers in the Pacific
ABOARD THE USS CARL VINSON—The U.S. Seventh Fleet’s commander called for an expanded presence by U.S. and allied aircraft carriers in the Pacific to persuade China and Russia that “today is not the day” to start a conflict.
Vice Adm. Karl Thomas spoke Tuesday as the U.S., Japan, Australia, Canada and Germany completed a 10-day naval exercise led by Japan in Pacific waters. Media were invited to the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson to watch F-35 jet fighters take off and land.
The exercise followed another in October in which two U.S. aircraft carriers—the Carl Vinson and the USS Ronald Reagan —joined the U.K.’s HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft
carrier as well as a Japanese ship on which helicopters can land.
Although those combined forces represent “an incredible amount of power,” allies should go further, Adm. Thomas said. “When we think about how we might fight, it’s a large water space, and four aircraft carriers is a good number, but six, seven or eight would be better,” he said.
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The U.S. Navy’s carrier fleet, once little challenged in the Pacific, faces a growing threat from China, which commissioned its first domestically built aircraft carrier in 2019 and expects its second carrier to enter service by 2024, according to the Pentagon.
Recent signs point to steady progress on the construction ofBeijing’s third aircraft carrier, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and satellite imagery suggests China hasbuilt a mock-upof a U.S. aircraft carrier in the desert, presumably for target practice.
Asked about the threat from China and Russia, which recently sent a joint naval force circling much of Japan’s main island, Adm. Thomas said it was important to show a united face to “other nations that might be more aggressive and authoritarian.”
The U.S. and its allies should use joint exercises to “deter aggression from some of these nations that are showing burgeoning strength” and “tell these nations that maybe today is not the day,” to trigger a clash, he said.
Japan ismodifying two shipsdesigned for helicopter landings so that they can also operate with a version of the F-35 fighter that can land vertically. That version is known as the F-35B.
Adm. Thomas referred to an exercise last week in which Italian forcespracticed landing F-35Bson the U.K.’s Queen Elizabeth. The Seventh Fleet commander said he hoped allies in the Pacific could carry out more such exercises working with one another’s ships and planes.