In a speech to the American people on September 24, 1988, then-President Ronald Reagan stated boldly, “One thing is certain. If we’re to continue to advance world peace and human freedom, America must remain strong. If we have learned anything these last eight years, it’s that peace through strength works.”
It would be hard to argue with those words. Less than 14 months later, the Berlin Wall fell and by the end of 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed. America’s strength ensured peace – and the end of the Cold War.
Today, the motto of the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76), the ninth ship of the nuclear-powered Nimitz class, maintains the motto “Peace Through Strength,” and highlights President Reagan’s recurring theme during his public service.
Strength and Peace
Named to honor Ronald W. Reagan, the 40th president of the United States, who served from 1981 to 1989, the carrier was laid down in early 1998. She was launched in March 2001 and commissioned in July 2003. CVN-76 had the distinction of being the first carrier to be named in honor of a then-living former president. While Reagan didn’t serve in the United States Navy, one of his key initiatives while in office was the 600-ship Navy program, which proved to be a key effort in maintaining the peace through strength.
Even in the post-Cold War era, CVN-76 serves to project U.S. Navy power.
She serves as a floating airbase and one that is well defended at that. USS Ronald Reagan is equipped with SLQ-32A(V)4 Countermeasures suite and SLQ-25A Nixie torpedo countermeasures. She is also armed with evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles which can counter supersonic anti-ship missiles, the lightweight, infrared homing surface-to-air Rolling Air Frame Missile, and a close-in weapons system (CIWS) – the multiple barrel weapon system for detecting and destroying short-range incoming missiles and enemy aircraft which have managed to penetrate the outer defenses.
Since entering service, the carrier has been deployed multiple times to the Middle East as part of a show of force, but it has also served in a peacetime role, providing humanitarian relief aid following Japan’s massive 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami.
The Nuclear-Powered Car Carrier
The carrier also had the distinction of one time having her flight deck filled not with aircraft, but rather civilian automobiles!
When USS Ronald Reagan’s official home port was changed from Bremerton, Washington to San Diego in 2012, the Navy allowed sailors being relocated to have their personal vehicles transported on the deck of the ship as a cost-saving measure. As it was a short trip along the coast, the carrier didn’t need to operate its air wing. That provided ample room for the crew to get their cars to the new home port – and allowed Ronald Reagan to serve as a $5 billion nuclear-powered car ferry!
The Flagship of CSG-5
In October 2015, USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) became the flagship of Carrier Strike Group Five (CSG-5), the only forward-based carrier strike group home-ported at Yokosuka, Japan. Permanently forward-deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet, CSG-5 is also the United States Navy’s largest carrier strike group.
Since the deployment, CVN-76 has conducted numerous fleet exercises with the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force as well as with the Republic of Korea Navy. In July 2020, the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group was deployed to the South China Sea along with USS Nimitz (CVN-68) for dual-carrier operations in the Philippine Sea. Ronald Reagan arrived back in Japan in November 2020, after a six-month Indo-Pacific Deployment.
In December, a project team from Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Ship Repair Facility (PSNS & IMF) and Japan Regional Maintenance Center began selected restricted availability (SRA) repairs on the carrier. Major SRA work completed included non-skid replacement on the flight deck and hangar bay, aircraft elevator repair, as well as valve and component repairs.
Following the completion of the SRA, the Gipper was deployed to the Middle East in June 2021 to support the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan. In late May 2022, she was relieved by USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72), while CVN-76 led CSG6 to promote stability in the 7th Fleet.
Wherever USS Ronald Reagan heads next, it will certainly be to help maintain peace through strength.
Now a Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes.