Inside USS Ronald Reagan, U.S. Aircraft Carrier Near Taiwan

As tensions have grown between Washington and Beijing over the potential visit of House speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan, renewed attention has been focused on the U.S. military presence in the South China Sea and the area surrounding the self-governing island claimed by China as part of its territory.

Above all, the USS Ronald Reagan—a U.S. Nimitz-class nuclear-powered supercarrier— has grasped the attention of the media and international observers after being spotted in the South China Sea in the past few days.

USS Reagan
The USS Ronald Reagan has been confirmed as currently stationed in the Philippines Sea, east of Taiwan and south of Japan. Above, a general view of U.S. aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan anchored off in Manila Bay on August 7, 2019. TED ALJIBE/AFP via Getty Images

The History of the USS Ronald Reagan

The Ronald Reagan is the ninth ship of the U.S. 10-strong Nimitz-class of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, named after the 40th president of the U.S.

Construction for the warship started in February 1988 in Virginia, and the Ronald Reagan was finally christened by Nancy Reagan on March 4, 2001. In 2004, it left the naval base in Norfolk, Virginia, to circumnavigate Latin America on its way to its new home port of San Diego.

In 2006, the Ronald Reagan was deployed to conduct naval operations in support of the "war on terror" launched by then-president George W. Bush in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. The warship was involved in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to official information.

In 2007, the warship was used to offer humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to the victims of Typhoon Fengshen, also known as Typhoon Frank, in the Philippines. After six months in the Pacific, it returned to San Diego.

It returned once again to offer disaster relief in the Pacific in 2011, when a magnitude 9.0 earthquake left thousands dead in Japan. Four years later, in 2015, the warship was re-stationed from San Diego to Yokosuka, Japan.

In the history of the Ronald Reagan there's also, curiously, one special gig: In 2008, the band Creed played aboard the warship while it was underway in the Gulf of Oman, watched by a crowd of 1,500 crew members.

The flagship is currently led by Captain Fred Goldhammer, Captain Matthew Ventimiglia and Command Master Chief Christopher King.

What's on the Ronald Reagan?

According to USNI News, a site offering maritime news and analysis, the Carrier Air Wing 5, normally based at the Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, in Japan, is currently embarked aboard the Ronald Reagan.

This carrier includes a total of nine squadrons and detachments normally stationed in Iwakuni and Atsugi, Japan.

Where Is the Ronald Reagan Now?

On Tuesday, a U.S. Navy official told Reuters that the Ronald Reagan, which is normally stationed in Japan, had transited the South China Sea and was now in the Philippines Sea, east of Taiwan and south of Japan. The exact location was not confirmed.

The Ronald Reagan is operating with the guided missile cruiser USS Antietam and destroyer USS Higgins, according to the U.S. Navy official. The amphibious assault ship USS Tripoli was also reported as relocated near Taiwan, likely as a deterrent against Beijing's reacting to Pelosi's visit with a military provocation against the self-governing island.

Pelosi reportedly landed in Taiwan on August 2.

What Can the Ronald Reagan Do Now?

It's unclear what the Ronald Reagan could do should tensions surrounding Taiwan escalate during a Pelosi's visit to the island.

The U.S. Navy official who confirmed the presence of the Ronald Reagan near Taiwan told Reuters that while the four warships "are able to respond to any eventuality, these are normal, routine deployments."