USS Lassen Heading to Chinese Islands ‘Within Hours’

The Pentagon has confirmed that the U.S. Arleigh Burke class destroyer USS Lassen will sail within 12 nautical miles of the militarized Chinese islands in the Subi and Mischief reefs, located in the Spratly archipelago.

Officials have confirmed that the patrol will be carried out within 24 hours and will be the first of many.

 “This is something that will be a regular occurrence, not a one-off event,”

The purpose of the patrols will be to assert freedom of navigation and to hopefully curb Chinese militarization of the reef. So far only P-8 and P-3 maritime patrol aircraft have been conducting surveillance of the the islands. A CNN news crew was given access to a P-8 Poseidon flight. They recorded angry warnings from the Chinese to “stay away from the area.” Defense officials have said the Chinese have moved AA and artillery onto the islands. The sailing of U.S. Destroyer maybe in response to the this.

A P-8A Poseidon assigned to Patrol Squadron (VP) 16 is seen in flight over Jacksonville, Fla. (U.S Navy photo by Personnel Specialist 1st Class Anthony Petry)
A P-8A Poseidon assigned to Patrol Squadron (VP) 16 is seen in flight over Jacksonville, Fla. (U.S Navy photo by Personnel Specialist 1st Class Anthony Petry)

The USS Lassen(DDG-82) is a Flight IIA Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, considered to be the best all around destroyer the world over. Equipped with a 96 cell Mk 41 vertical launch system, she has enough firepower to decimate a small country. The ship is also capable of taking out ICBMs.

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen (DDG 82) launches a Standard Missile (SM-2) as a part of Multi-Sail 13. Multi-Sail 13 is a Destroyer Squadron 15 multi-ship and multi-warfare exercise designed to test ships operating ability across a wide range of disciplines including anti-submarine warfare, live fire exercises, and high value unit escort scenarios.(U.S. Navy photo by Ensign Timothy Tran/Released).
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen (DDG 82) launches a Standard Missile (SM-2) as a part of Multi-Sail 13. Multi-Sail 13 is a Destroyer Squadron 15 multi-ship and multi-warfare exercise designed to test ships operating ability across a wide range of disciplines including anti-submarine warfare, live fire exercises, and high value unit escort scenarios.(U.S. Navy photo by Ensign Timothy Tran/Released).

China’s has been vocal about not allowing any foreign navy within its territorial waters, as rumors have spread the U.S. would start portals soon. Just this month China’s Foreign Ministry proclaimed that they would use military force to deter intrusion.

“China will never allow any country to violate China’s territorial waters and airspace in the Spratly Islands, in the name of protecting freedom of navigation and overflight.”

The patrol will be the first major challenge of Chinese sovereignty in the area. While the USS Lassen is more than capable of holding her own in a fight, its a far cry from the Carrier Battle Group some have called for, similar to the Taiwan strait Crises in the mid 90’s. Though the Patrol is set to match the carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt docking in Singapore on the way back from Middle East.

Update: The USS Lassen sailed near disputed reef claimed by China without incident.