San Diego-based Carl Vinson carrier strike group returns

SAN DIEGO - San Diego-based ships and sailors in the carrier strike group led by the USS Carl Vinson returned to San Diego Friday after a deployment of more than five months.

The aircraft carrier and an escorting destroyer, the USS Wayne E. Meyer, left Jan. 5 and the cruiser USS Lake Champlain followed one day later.

The ships and their crews took part in several exercises with the navies of allied nations and provided a show of force in the Sea of Japan during a time of heightened tensions with North Korea.

"That's what we're trained to do -- that's what your Navy does every day," Rear Adm. James Kilby, who commanded the force, told reporters. "I felt very confident in the flight deck, the air wing, the crews, the ships -- I couldn't be more proud of them."

The Lake Champlain, which honors a decisive naval battle in the War of 1812, was involved in a non-injury collision with a South Korean fishing vessel that U.S. officials said ignored radio warnings and a horn blast during a time of limited visibility. The cruiser suffered a small dent when struck by the bow of the fishing boat in the May 9 incident.

The Vinson, named after a Georgian who served in Congress for more than 50 years, is best known as the vessel that received the body of Osama bin Laden after he was killed by U.S. Navy SEALs in Pakistan in 2011. During its previous deployment, a website believed to be friendly to the Islamic State published the names of 100 military personnel who took part in strikes against the terrorist organization, four of whom were serving on the Vinson.

The Wayne E. Mayer is named for an admiral considered to be the father of the Aegis air defense system used by naval vessels.

Two squadrons of helicopters that served aboard the vessels during the deployment flew in to Naval Air Station North Island on Thursday.