The aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan departs Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, Friday, Sept. 29, 2023.

The aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan departs Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, Friday, Sept. 29, 2023. (Akifumi Ishikawa/Stars and Stripes)

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — The aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, after more than a week of delays, quietly left its homeport south of Tokyo on Friday to continue its annual Indo-Pacific patrol.

The ship, at Yokosuka since Aug. 25 for a mid-patrol break, was scheduled to leave on Sept. 18, a Yokosuka city spokesman told Stars and Stripes by phone Sept. 20.

The ship afterwards rescheduled and canceled numerous departures before casting off its mooring lines Friday morning, according to Yokosuka city news releases.

Seventh Fleet spokeswoman Lt. Kristina Wiedemann, in a phone call with Stars and Stripes on Monday, said she could not comment on ship movements as a matter of policy.

At Yokosuka, the carrier underwent routine maintenance and personnel swaps midway through its typically six-month-long sea patrol, Task Force 70 spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Seth Koenig told Stars and Stripes by email Sept. 20. The media were not invited to cover the Ronald Reagan’s departure.

The carrier’s patrol began on May 23. Koenig declined comment on plans for the remainder of the Ronald Reagan’s deployment due to security concerns. The carrier typically ends its patrol in late November or early December.

“I can say that USS Ronald Reagan and its crew are trained and equipped to successfully execute a range of missions in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific,” he wrote. “On any patrol, we work with like-minded allies and partners to project a strong and unified presence across the region.”

The final leg of this patrol will likely be the last from Japan for the Ronald Reagan. Sometime next year, the carrier is expected to relocate to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Wash., for a scheduled maintenance period.

Taking its place will be the USS George Washington, which is wrapping up its midlife nuclear refueling and maintenance at Newport News shipyard in Virginia. The carrier’s four-year refit began in 2017 but was significantly delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic and other setbacks.

The George Washington led Carrier Strike Group 5 from 2008 to 2015 before it was relieved by the Ronald Reagan.

The Navy announced the carrier swap in April but has yet to announce when it will take place; “there is no update on the specifics of the scheduled rotation,” Koenig said.

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Alex Wilson covers the U.S. Navy and other services from Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan. Originally from Knoxville, Tenn., he holds a journalism degree from the University of North Florida. He previously covered crime and the military in Key West, Fla., and business in Jacksonville, Fla.

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