US Navy carrier groups adopt ‘unpredictable routes and drills’ to counter China

KEY POINTS

  • The United States began its 2022 naval program two weeks earlier than last year
  • US warships have now adopted new routes as they enter the South China Sea
  • Analysts believe the US Navy is trying to evade radar on China’s horizon

US Navy carrier strike groups would adopt “complicated and unpredictable routes and exercise patterns in the South China Sea where the threat of war looms large.”

It further increases the number of transits through disputed waters, the South China Morning Post reported. The number of transits increased to 10 in 2021 compared to 6 in 2020 and 5 in 2019.

The daily, citing analysts, said the change could be part of “countermeasures” devised by carrier battle groups to deal with any emergency in the region, including an invasion of Taiwan.

According to the South China Sea Probing Initiative, a Beijing-based think tank, the United States began its 2022 naval program two weeks earlier than last year by sending the USS Carl Vinson carrier battle group and a dockside group to landing helicopters in the South China Sea for a joint exercise with Essex Amphibious Ready Group.

“The US military has significantly increased its military deployment in the South China Sea since last year, in terms of training scales, sorties and scenarios,” SCSPI Director Hu Bo said as quoted by The media.

He added that while US warships earlier entered the waters via the Bashi Channel between the Philippines and Taiwan, the routes and durations of operation have recently diversified.

Now ships enter the South China Sea via the narrow waterways between the Philippine archipelagos, according to navigation records and satellite images.

This includes the Balabac Strait off the province of Palawan, a channel between Verde Island and Mindoro, and other points. The USS Carl Vinson also took this route, via the Balabac Strait, for the exercise last Tuesday.

This is part of US efforts against the PLA’s anti-access strategies. “I believe the US Navy is trying to evade over-the-horizon (OTH) radar systems on the three man-made islands in Mischief, Subi, and Fiery Cross Reefs, which have targeted US warships and aircraft. [before]Lu Li-shih, a former instructor at the Taiwan Naval Academy in Kaohsiung, told the South China Morning Post.

He added that the United States could use the geographical features of the Philippines to approach the region to evade OTH radars, which fail to monitor objects approaching a group of archipelagos.

Using alternate routes also reduces the predictability of warships, analysts believe.

A file photo of a US Navy warship navigating the disputed waterways of the South China Sea Photo: US NAVY/Benjamin DOBBS

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