As China flexes its military muscle in the South China Sea, the U.S. is responding with its own show of force that includes ships, fighter jets and submarines, as well as the test launch of nuclear-capable missiles.
According to internal military reports reviewed by NBC News, almost every week brings another display of U.S. hardware in the waters off China, in a response that has only grown more aggressive since the inauguration of President Trump.
A U.S. Navy carrier battle group centered on the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson is now moving through the South China Sea, the stretch of Pacific bounded by China, Vietnam and the Philippines.
Three attack submarines, the USS Alexandria, USS Chicago and USS Louisville, have deployed in the Western Pacific in the past month, and at least one has entered the South China Sea.
Also in February, the U.S. sent a dozen F-22 Raptor stealth fighters to Tindal AB in northern Australia, the closest Australian military airbase to China, for coalition training and exercises. It’s the first deployment of that many F-22s in the Pacific.
And if that didn’t get the attention of the Chinese government, the U.S. just tested four Trident II submarine-launched ballistic missiles during a nuclear war exercise, sending the simulated weapons 4,200 miles from the coast of California into the mid-Pacific. It’s the first time in three years the U.S. has conducted tests in the Pacific, and the first four-missile salvo since the end of the Cold War.