WATCH: USS Carl Vinson patrols West Philippine Sea

Ron Gagalac, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 26 2018 12:05 PM

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ABS-CBN News was given access to the USS Carl Vinson over the weekend to witness their actual operation in the West Philippine Sea - the only Filipino television station among selected international media to have set sail with one of the largest aircraft carriers in the world.

The USS Carl Vinson is one of the US Navy's longest-serving active carriers, the ship's Public Affairs Office said. Its primary mission is to conduct sustained combat air operations, protect US interests around the world, defend air and sea lanes, provide humanitarian assistance, and maintain a visible presence of American resolve at any time and place.

The ship alone costs $3.8 billion and carries around 72 aircraft including FA18 Super Hornets and Hornets, EA 18G Growlers, Nighthawk helicopters and surveillance aircraft. A total of 5,300 crew members and officers are onboard the carrier for its 2018 deployment to the West Philippine Sea.

The ship flew their jet fighters and helicopters day and night along the West Philippine Sea for continued training and other missions ship officials refused to divulge.

The ship comes with 5 other battleships called the carrier strike group, but only three were deployed for the West Philippine Sea duty. The strike group is America's premiere forward-deployed force providing a deterrent against aggression and protecting US interest around the world.

Lt. Commander Timothy Hawkins, spokesman of USS Carl Vinson, said their presence in the disputed body of water is not to send a message on the aggression of China but to reassure allies and partners, maintain regional stability, and keep sea lanes open.

"This is what we have been doing for the last at least 70 years. It helps maintain regional stability, which ensures global prosperity. It's routine," Hawkins said.

U.S. Navy personnel prepare to launch an F18 fighter jet on the deck of USS Carl Vinson during a FONOPS (Freedom of Navigation Operation Patrol) in South China Sea, March 3, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

The ship is close to being self sufficient with amenities and state-of-the-art navigational system.

The ship has its own jet engine repair shop and testing center for its aircraft. It has a hospital with operating rooms, an intensive care unit, x-ray facilities and a number patients room.

It also has its own carpentry area and a machine shop where they can make their own spare parts and engineering materials. It has a chapel that provides religious activities and services for all types of religions.

"We have an entire floating city here with machine shops and everything that it would take not just to fix the aircraft carriers but to maintain the aircraft that we are deployed with," said Capt Douglas Verissimo, commanding officer of the USS Carl Vinson.

It also has its own dental department with at least 5 dentists taking turns to attend to some 50-70 patients daily.

This is on top of the 3,000 sleeping, office and operations rooms, a 4.5 acre flight deck, a hangar bay, a 200-ft runway, a buffet type mess hall for crew and officers, exercise gym, and a variety of armaments such as Multiple NATO Sea Sparrow, Phalanx CIWS, and Rolling Airframe Missile mounts.

"It's a very large ship. We have to balance those capabilities across those warfare areas and it's my job to take a step back and really listen and think on how to best do that job," Verissimo said.