The U.S. Navy Independence-class littoral combat ship USS Montgomery (LCS 8) sailed near the disputed Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands archipelago in the South China Sea on Jan. 25, the service announced.
According to the Navy, USS Montgomery is “on a rotational deployment conducting operations, and working with allies and partners to provide maritime security and stability”.
#USSMontgomery (LCS 8), conducts routine operations near the Fiery Reef in the South China Sea, Jan. 25th. Montgomery is on a rotational deployment conducting operations, and working with allies and partners to provide maritime security and stability. #FreeandOpenIndoPacific pic.twitter.com/ZGSaikqIQi
— U.S. Navy (@USNavy) January 28, 2020
The Fiery Cross Reef is a militarised reef occupied and controlled by China (PRC) as part of Sansha of Hainan Province and is also claimed by the Republic of China (ROC/Taiwan), the Philippines and Vietnam. The reef has a 3,300 metres (10,800 ft) airstrip, a seaport and a military garrison an is equipped with anti-aircraft weapons and a missile-defence system.
The transit is believed to be the first freedom of navigation operation (FONOP) conducted by the U.S. Navy in the South China Sea this year.
Littoral combat ships are fast, agile and networked surface combatants, optimized for operating in the near-shore environments. With mission packages allowing for tailored capabilities to meet specific mission needs and unique physical characteristics, LCS provides operational flexibility and access to a wider range of ports.