IN PHOTOS: PH officials aboard USS Carl Vinson in South China Sea

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The United States Navy recently deployed a US aircraft carrier strike group, the USS Carl Vinson, to patrol in the South China Sea despite strong opposition from Beijing. 

The guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer and an aircraft from Carrier Air Wing joined the massive USS Carl Vinson in its "routine" operations in the disputed waters. The carrier has at least 70 aircraft, including helicopters, surveillance vessels, and F-18 Hornet fighter jets. (WATCH: On board USS Carl Vinson: Show of force in the South China Sea?)

The US embassy in Manila, on Saturday, March 4, brought 3 reporters for a tour of the aircraft carrier, led by US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim.

While President Rodrigo Duterte has been cold to the US, 3 of his men joined Kim on a tour of the aircraft carrier in the disputed waters – Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, and Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II. Rear Admiral Narciso Vingson Jr, deputy chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, also joined the group. 

The team flew via a US Navy C-2A Greyhound to reach the aircraft carrier in the middle of the South China Sea. At the time, the Navy said they were 120 to 130 miles (193 kilometers to 209 kilometers) away from Scarborough Shoal, which Manila and Beijing both claim, and the Western coast of the Philippines.

Take a look inside the US Navy C-2A Greyhound and the USS Carl Vinson:

CAPS. Philippine officials wear USS Carl Vinson caps given as presents by the US Navy. Photo by Camille Elemia/Rappler

CAPS. Philippine officials wear USS Carl Vinson caps given as presents by the US Navy.

Photo by Camille Elemia/Rappler

HORNET. An F-18 Hornet about to land on the flight deck of the USS Carl Vinson. Since the runway is short, the aircraft must hook (rear pointing downwards) onto arresting cables on the deck to bring it to a complete stop. Photo by Camille Elemia/Rappler

HORNET. An F-18 Hornet about to land on the flight deck of the USS Carl Vinson. Since the runway is short, the aircraft must hook (rear pointing downwards) onto arresting cables on the deck to bring it to a complete stop.

Photo by Camille Elemia/Rappler

DISPUTED WATERS. View of the South China Sea from inside the USS Carl Vinson. Photo by Camille Elemia/Rappler

DISPUTED WATERS. View of the South China Sea from inside the USS Carl Vinson.

Photo by Camille Elemia/Rappler

READY. An F-18 pilot and an officer a few minutes before takeoff from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier. Photo by Camille Elemia/Rappler

READY. An F-18 pilot and an officer a few minutes before takeoff from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier.

Photo by Camille Elemia/Rappler

HAWKEYE. A US Navy E-2C Hawkeye, an early warning and command and control aircraft, about to land, as Philippine officials and media look on. Photo by Camille Elemia/Rappler

HAWKEYE. A US Navy E-2C Hawkeye, an early warning and command and control aircraft, about to land, as Philippine officials and media look on.

Photo by Camille Elemia/Rappler

CREW. Color-coded crew prepare for the takeoff of a fighter jet. According to the US Navy, the aircraft carrier strike group has 5,000 crew, 16% of them female. Photo by Camille Elemia/Rappler

CREW. Color-coded crew prepare for the takeoff of a fighter jet. According to the US Navy, the aircraft carrier strike group has 5,000 crew, 16% of them female.

Photo by Camille Elemia/Rappler

FLIGHT DECK. The flight deck of the USS Carl Vinson is 332 meters in length or as long as 11 basketball courts. Photo by Camille Elemia/Rappler

FLIGHT DECK. The flight deck of the USS Carl Vinson is 332 meters in length or as long as 11 basketball courts.

Photo by Camille Elemia/Rappler

MAINTENANCE. This is where aircraft are being maintained. Photo by Camille Elemia/Rappler

MAINTENANCE. This is where aircraft are being maintained.

Photo by Camille Elemia/Rappler

'ISLAND.' The 'island' is the tower-like structure above the flight deck. One can have a commanding view of the entire vessel and the surrounding seas from here. Photo by Camille Elemia/Rappler

'ISLAND.' The 'island' is the tower-like structure above the flight deck. One can have a commanding view of the entire vessel and the surrounding seas from here.

Photo by Camille Elemia/Rappler

WAITING. Another F-18 Hornet waiting for takeoff. With ear-piercing sounds, ground crew rely on hand signals to communicate. Photo by Camille Elemia/Rappler

WAITING. Another F-18 Hornet waiting for takeoff. With ear-piercing sounds, ground crew rely on hand signals to communicate.

Photo by Camille Elemia/Rappler

SAVING SPACE. An E-2C Hawkeye with folded wings to save space on the flight deck. Photo by Camille Elemia/Rappler

SAVING SPACE. An E-2C Hawkeye with folded wings to save space on the flight deck.

Photo by Camille Elemia/Rappler

– Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com

image