USS Ronald Reagan Departs Japan After Nine Years of Indo-Pacific Deployment

Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier
USS Ronald Regan departing Japan on May 16, 2024 (USN)

Published May 17, 2024 9:46 AM by The Maritime Executive


The U.S.’s only forward deployed nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan is returning home after nearly a decade of deployments to the Indo-Pacific region. The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier departed Yokosuka, Japan, which has been its homeport for nine years, on May 16 and embarked on a journey to Bremerton, Washington where it is scheduled to undergo repairs and upgrades at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility.

Since 2015, the Reagan was deployed in the Indo-Pacific region as part of the Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 5 whose mission was to keep the peace amidst increasing geopolitical tensions characterized by China’s becoming more assertive and North Korea’s continuous threats.

Whereas the other U.S. aircraft carriers are homeported in the U.S. and deploy periodically, Ronald Reagan was permanently forward-deployed to Japan, a strategic decision that was meant to cut an average of 17 days transit time to the region compared to forces based in the continental U.S. When combined with guided-missile destroyers and cruisers, the warship created a carrier strike group of up to 12 ships and 75 aircraft, forces that had a higher operational tempo than other Navy vessels.  

During its time in the region, the aircraft carrier logged more than 400,000 nautical miles, was involved in eight major deployments, and participated in dozens of multinational exercises. This included exercises such as with the Japanese Maritime Forces and tours that took the carrier to regional ports ranging from Hong Kong to Brisbane, Australia.



As the ship pulled away from the pier and made its final transit through Sagami Bay, hundreds of CSG 5 sailors who have been part of a 6,000-member crew over the past nine years were in line to bid farewell to the warship. Departing with the carrier were the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Robert Smalls and the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Howard

“After nine years of deployment to Japan, the USS Ronald Reagan and her 6,000 crew deserve our heartfelt appreciation for their selflessness, their service, and their sacrifice in keeping the Indo-Pacific safe, secure, and stable,” said Rahm Emanuel, U.S. Ambassador to Japan.

During her tenure in the Indo-Pacific region, the carrier was involved in critical deployments and exercises. Among them was a deployment to the Middle East in 2021 to assist in Operation Allies Refuge, providing safety and security to more than 7,000 U.S. citizens and evacuees in Afghanistan. A year later, it was back to the Korean Peninsula for a missile defense exercise following a decision by North Korea to test-fire a ballistic missile over Japan.

The Reagan also maintained a constant presence in the South China Sea in deployments aimed at ensuring maritime security and freedom of navigation despite China’s growing sovereignty claim over the vast majority of the waters, something that has resulted in numerous altercations with the Philippines. Over the years, the ship made dozens of port visits not only to South Korea and the Philippines but also a historic port call to Da Nang, Vietnam, last year.



“For nearly nine years, thousands of Ronald Reagan sailors have lived and worked here in Yokosuka, and have deployed throughout the region to uphold the international rule of law and maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific along with our allies and partners,” said Capt. Daryle Cardone, Ronald Reagan's commanding officer.

The nuclear-powered USS Ronald Reagan is the ninth member of the class and part of a two-ship subgroup along with USS George H.W. Bush. The Reagan was commissioned in July 2003. She underwent a four-month overhaul at the beginning of 2018. She returned to Yokosuka after sea trials in May 2018 and resumed her tours of the Pacific. 

The Ronald Reagan will be replaced by USS George Washington, another Nimitz-class carrier that last year completed an extended six-year overhaul and is currently assigned in South America.