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HomeAsiaCommanding Officer of US Aircraft Carrier Squadron Removed - Radio Free Asia

Commanding Officer of US Aircraft Carrier Squadron Removed – Radio Free Asia

William Coulter, the commanding officer of an electronic attack squadron on the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier, was removed last week “due to a loss of confidence in his ability to command,” the U.S. Navy has said.

The carrier is in the South China Sea at the moment.

Cmdr. Coulter served as the commanding officer of the Electronic Attack Squadron 136 (VAQ-136) since January 2023, according to the Navy’s statement.

The VAQ-136, nicknamed “Gauntlets” and deployed aboard the Carl Vinson since October, flies a number of EF-18G Growler aircraft. This type of aircraft is used to disrupt enemy radar and other electronics.

“Navy commanding officers are held to high standards of personal and professional conduct,” the statement said. “They are expected to uphold the highest standards of responsibility, reliability, and leadership, and the Navy holds them accountable when they fall short of those standards.”

No further details were given and it is unclear how the removal would affect the carrier’s operations. Radio Free Asia has contacted the U.S. Navy for more information.

USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) is a Nimitz-class, nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, and the flagship of the Navy’s Carrier Strike Group 1. It’s homeported in San Diego but currently on a regularly scheduled deployment to the Western Pacific in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations.

The carrier and its escorts have just visited Singapore from Dec. 17-21 and are back in the South China Sea, according to USNI News published by the U.S. Naval Institute, an independent member association focusing on naval matters.

The carrier strike group comprises the USS Carl Vinson, Carrier Air Wing 2, cruiser USS Princeton and two destroyers – USS Kidd and USS Sterett.

It is one of the few extra-regional naval forces currently operating in South East Asia over the Christmas period, USNI News said, adding that Australian, Canadian and Russian navies all had wrapped up their Indo-Pacific deployments and returned home in the second half of December.

In November, the Carl Vinson joined naval forces of Australia, Canada and Japan in the Japan-led Annualex exercise in the Pacific, in which the Philippines was also present as an observer.

The exercise came as the U.S. and allies strengthen their cooperation in the region amid rising security challenges from China.

Last week Japan formally handed over an air surveillance radar system to the Philippines. Manila in recent months has been embroiled in a series of confrontations with Beijing in the South China Sea.

“For months, the Philippines has been making provocations on Ren’ai Jiao and other issues and drawing forces outside the region into those issues,” Chinese foreign ministry’s spokesperson Mao Ning told a press briefing on Monday, referring to the Second Thomas Shoal by its Chinese name.

The Philippines has accused China of repeatedly attempting to block its resupply missions to the troops stationed on the shoal.

“China is compelled under those circumstances to take necessary measures to firmly respond to it,” Mao said, adding: “We hope the Philippines will stop pursuing the wrong course at once.”

Edited by Taejun Kang and Elaine Chan.

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