By Paul Armstrong
The deafening roar of state-of-the-art warplanes being catapulted into the air from its huge flight deck signaled that the USS George Washington was back in combat mode after its recent detour to the Philippines to take part in the aid effort in the wake of Super Typhoon Haiyan.
Barely a week on and the 90,000-ton Nimitz-class aircraft carrier is now patrolling waters off the island of Okinawa as part a huge naval exercise - AnnualEx 2013 - involving dozens of warships, submarines and aircraft from the U.S. Navy's 7th fleet and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF).
The aim? To provide a stern test of their ability to effectively and mutually respond to the defense of Japan or to a regional crisis or contingency situation in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, according to the U.S. Navy.
But this year's war games have taken on an added dimension given the high-pressure atmosphere in the region at present - they take place in the shadow of a controversial new Air Defense Identification Zone announced by the Chinese last weekend.FULL STORY