The USS George Washington has sailed out of a Japan naval base after completing its seven-year posting in the Far East.
The giant Nimitz class aircraft carrier, which was commissioned in 1992, left the US naval base in Yokosuka on Monday and will conduct military exercises before turning for home.
It will be replaced by the USS Ronald Reagan, a newer version of the same ship.
Navy Rear Admiral John Alexander told a news conference: “Everybody asks whether the aircraft carriers are obsolete.
“I would say when other countries are building an aircraft carrier, they’re doing it for a reason, and the fact is you can actually have a bigger influence in the region.”
Sailors in their dress whites lined the 1,092-ft flight deck as huge US and Japanese flags hung in the open bays below.
Japanese sailors spelled out the words “Thx GWA” on the deck of the Izumo as their American counterparts formed “sayonara” on the flight deck of the George Washington.
Families of the crew members waved flags from the shore and held up handmade posters.
The George Washington will rendezvous with the Ronald Reagan in San Diego, where around 2,000 of the crew from both ships will effectively trade places.
It will then continue on to Virginia, where it is scheduled to undergo a massive overhaul and refuelling of its two nuclear reactors.
The Ronald Reagan, commissioned in 2003, is set to arrive later this year and will become the new flagship of the Yokosuka carrier group, Rear Adm Alexander said.
Last year, then-Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel visited China’s only aircraft carrier the Liaoning.
The West has called on China to reveal the extent of its military build-up as Beijing builds submarines, surface ships and anti-ship ballistic missiles.
Two years ago, Japan unveiled the Izumo helicopter carrier, its largest warship since the Second World War.
(c) Sky News 2015