Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Aircraft Shortage in the Navy?

100215-N-8421M-185 SOUTH CHINA SEA (Feb. 15, 2010) The aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68), the guided-missile cruiser USS Chosin (CG 65), the guided-missile destroyers USS Sampson (DDG 102) and USS Pinkney (DDG 91), and the guided-missile frigate USS Rentz (FFG 46) operate in formation in the South China Sea. The Nimitz Carrier Strike Group is conducting operations in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class David Mercil/Released)
 The photo is from Navy.mil but what caught my attention are the aircraft on the flight deck.  Or rather the lack of aircraft.  If you've ever seen a pic of a Nuclear Aircraft Carrier from the 70's or 80's it appeared as if you barely had room to turn around on one.  Now its rather empty.  The caption to the photo states that the ships are in the South China Sea so I am assuming that they have there full compliment of aircraft.  So my questions are...  Is the Navy operating with full air wings?  Has the number of aircraft in an air wing been reduced?  Are we operating our aircraft carrier to its full ability?  If an aircraft carrier can safely operate 90 aircraft but we're only sending 40 out does that make sense? 

If you have the answer to the 'limited' number of airplanes on this aircraft carrier then please hit me with the answer.  But on a gut level that pic just doesn't look 'right'.  Just as an example of what I mean by a lack of aircraft...below is a picture of the USS Enterprise.

CBD left some links that are worth a look.  Air Wings have indeed gotten smaller.

1 comment :

  1. Old air wings:

    Some more recent air wings:
    Minus the F-14s (replaced with equivalent numbers of F/A-18E/Fs)
    Minus some of the older F/A-18s
    Minus some of the Prowlers (now being replaced with EA-18G Growlers, slowly, while some are re-worked under ICAP-III).
    No more S-3s.

    Many of these were supposed to be replaced with the F-35C back when it was IOC 2011ish.

    F-14 was retired because it was expensive, aging and viewed as unnecessary given the Super Hornet and the delivery "soon" of the JSF...and because the requirement for long-range carrier air defense intercept was basically ignored. The cost of upgrading/replacing it was not seen as sufficient to justify the cost. It also took up a huge amount of space on deck and work from engineers to keep flying.

    S3s were basically dropped without replacement.

    Supposedly, the carrier air wings of attack aircraft (now aimed at 44 aircraft, including USMC contributions) are not being maintained and there is an expected shortfall of ~240 aircraft, although the Navy recently stated that that is only a 100 aircraft gap. We're SLEPing older F/A-18s

    Overall, we're going from about 10 F-14A/B/Ds, 36 F/A-18A/C/E/Fs, 8 S-3Bs,4 EA-6Bs, 4 E-2Cs and a handful of helicopters down to to 44 F/A-18C/E/Fs, 4+ EA-18Gs & EA-6Bs, and 4 E-2C/Ds.

    The F/A-18Cs are fading fast and they're trying to keep up numbers until the F-35C makes IOC. The JSF program has sucked so much money out of the USN that they can't develop another F/A-XX to replace the early-model Hornets (and, eventually, the Super Hornets).

    No replacement was ever found for the long-ranged F-14, the F-35C and F/A-18E/F do not have the power or range to cover that lost protection.

    So, yes, the Carrier Air Wings have shrunk a bit!


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