Boarding the USS Abraham Lincoln in the Philippine Sea by Osprey
Fighter planes unexpectedly appeared behind the aircraft carrier, passing right by the bridge. Each time a fighter jet took off and landed, a roar echoed through the air and white vapor rose above the deck.
Mizuki Okada, a staff writer from The Sankei Shimbun and JAPAN Striker accompanied Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi on his visit to the US Navy’s nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln on Saturday, April 23.
It was a joint visit by Mr. Hayashi and US Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln, one of the largest aircraft carriers in the world. The US Navy’s Nimitz-class ship was deployed to the Philippine Sea in the Pacific Ocean at this time.
It was the first time in about twelve years that a Japanese foreign minister had landed on an American aircraft carrier.
Aboard an Osprey
A group of Japanese and American media boarded an MV-22 Osprey transport plane from the US Navy’s Atsugi Air Base (located in Yamato City and Ayase City, Kanagawa Prefecture). It is the same type of plane embarked by Minister Hayashi and Ambassador Emanuel on the same base.
We were asked to wear equipment called “flight gear” including a helmet with ear cups and goggles.
About an hour after we took off, the sea breeze started to enter the cabin. Eventually, the Osprey landed vertically on the deck of the USS while its propeller converted to an upward axis, like a helicopter.
Landing on the deck, we were exposed to strong propeller winds. This reporter crouched down to watch the Osprey as it took off, but as the propeller spun faster during takeoff, he found himself on his buttocks, knocked over by the high winds.
Strike Group Commander
Rear Admiral Jefferey Anderson, commanding officer of Carrier Strike Group Three, led by the USS Abraham Lincoln, called on reporters as the press conference began, saying, “Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Can everyone hear me? OK, thumbs up, can you hear me? OK!”
Commander Anderson expressed confidence in his ability to act quickly in any situation. He had been deployed to Iraqi Freedom and his prior assignments had included duties as a Top Gun instructor and training officer at the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center. Speaking to Japanese and American media, he said:
Can I talk about some of the exercises we did in the Sea of Japan [in April] with Inazuma [Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force Destroyer]. Our operations there were primarily to show our ironclad commitment to Japan.
Our work with Inazuma there was largely focused on training and building capabilities and interoperability capabilities. We trained through a myriad of mission sets ranging from sea strike and surface warfare, air warfare as well as anti-submarine warfare, and the Inazuma integrated with us seeing that really, really shows the strength of the alliance that we have with Japan, and I’d like to take a moment to mention that not only have we worked with the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force, but also with the Self-Defense Force Air Force and Ground Self-Defense Force while we are both operating in the Sea of Japan and the East China Sea.
Comments from guests on board
After touring the aircraft carrier, Mr. Hayashi and Mr. Emanuel held a joint press conference aboard the lower deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln. There were still continuous take-off and landing drills by F35C stealth fighter jets and other aircraft, so the roar of the planes frequently drowned out their commentary, forcing several interruptions.
“I just want to say I could have used it when I was mayor a few times. Okay?”
Mr. Emanuel, who served as mayor of Chicago, joked and laughed as he pointed to the roaring fighter jets as the press conference restarted. For the record, there are no aircraft carriers with fighter jets in landlocked Chicago. However, the scene put members of the media at ease.
Ambassador Emanuel’s opposition to China’s attempts to change the status quo by force was at the forefront of his remarks at the joint press conference. Emphasizing this point, he said:
One of the things China doesn’t have is those kinds of friends and allies. Our power as a country comes from the alliances we have and the ability of everyone else. Moreover, it’s not just Japan and South Korea, but Australia, New Zealand and India. We have a large base, a large base in the Philippines. China has none of that.
Vice Admiral of the 7th Fleet
Vice Admiral Karl Thomas, commander of the 7e Fleet, which is based in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan, was also on board.
7e The fleet is responsible for the Western Pacific and the Indian Ocean. But the Russian invasion of Ukraine also seemed to be on his mind. Vice Admiral Thomas told the media group present: “We have seen the strength and power of the free world come together when a country is aggressive and disrespects our rules-based international order and invades a sovereign nation. ”
He added: “Russia is a big country and also has a fleet on this side of the Pacific. And we watch them regularly. I am very confident in our ability here in the Pacific to keep an eye on the Russian fleet.
RELATED: INTERVIEW | Karl O. Thomas, Commander of the US 7th Fleet: On alert in the Indo-Pacific
When the Osprey carrying Mr. Hayashi and others took off from the USS Abraham Lincoln to take them back to Atsugi Base, this reporter again crouched down to watch him go, thinking “Don’t fall back!” This time, she grabbed the handle installed on the bridge with both hands.
After watching them leave, she realized that her hands had turned black from the oil that stuck to the deck every time a plane took off and landed.
(Read the article in Japanese at this link.)
Author: Mizuki Okada