With little fanfare, the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan left San Diego Bay this morning, bound for Japan.
The carrier – sometimes called “America’s flagship” – will become the new face of American naval power in Asia.
It replaces the carrier George Washington, which is coming home to Virginia for a mid-life overhaul of its nuclear core. The GW had been the U.S. aircraft carrier stationed in Japan – the Navy calls it “forward deployed” – since 2008.
Pierside on Monday, Rear Adm. John Alexander called it a “historic event.”
It “demonstrates the U.S. commitment to the region and our allies, and reiterates the importance of the U.S. Navy and Japan Maritime Self Defense Force interoperability,” said Alexander, commander of U.S. Carrier Strike Group 5 in Yokosuka, Japan.
“And (it) ensures we have the most capable platform forward deployed in the Western Pacific.”
The Reagan had called San Diego home, on and off, for 11 years.
But we’re not saying goodbye to all of its 3,000-person crew – and that’s why there was little fanfare at the pier Monday morning.
Only a handful of extended family members and friends looked on as the ship left. The Reagan’s nuclear core and command staff will stay attached to the ship as it moves to Japan. Most of their families have already relocated to Asia, an official said.
About two-thirds of the Reagan’s original crew will remain stationed at North Island Naval Air Station and will become the crew of the flattop Theodore Roosevelt, scheduled to sail into San Diego Bay this fall.
The Roosevelt will replace the Reagan in San Diego, maintaining a two-carrier presence here.
Read here about the historic three-carrier swap being executed this year.