Naval Aviation

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This page discusses the fixed wing aircraft currently or recently used by the U.S. Navy. A seperate page discusses military helicopters.

Carrier Based Fixed Wing Aircraft

The "standard" CVW (carrier air wing) for the mid-to-late 1990's consisted of the following:

  • 1 Fighter Squardon (VF) with 10 F-14 Tomcats
  • 3 Strike Fighter Squadrons (VFA/VMFA) each with 12 F/A-18C Hornets
  • 1 Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron (VAQ/VMAQ) with 4 EA-6B Prowlers Jammers.
  • 1 Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) with 4 E-2C Hawkeyes
  • 1 Sea Control Squadron (VS) with 8 S-3B Vikings
  • 1 Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron (HS) with 6 SH-60F and 2 HH-60H Seahawks
  • Total: 70 aircraft. Note that this means that most aircraft carriers operate with about two squadrons aircraft less than they have the capacity to carry. Also note that the planes shown in italics will no longer be present in the carrier fleet by the end of 2009.

The F-18 Hornet is the main Naval carrier based fighter aircraft which entered service in 1983. The F-14 fighter aircraft, introduced in the mid-1970s, are also carrier based but have largely been phased out of active service. According to Wikipedia: "The last operational F-14s in the US inventory will be retired at the end of 2005, with squadrons primarily migrating to the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet." (This has been delayed to February 2006).

The EA-6B Prowler aircraft is a modification of the carrier based A-6 attack aircraft which has been phased out of service as a combat aircraft and entered service as an electronic warfare plane in 1971. The F-18 based successor with introduction to begin in 2008 will be the EA-18G (see here in the July 22, 2005 entry) and may be nicknamed the "Growler".

The E-2C Hawkeye is a carrier based version of the Air Force AWACS planes, both of which are designed to provide long range radar and communications support for fighter planes and both of which are distinguishable by the large disk mounted on top of the main body of the plane. Current plans call for these planes, introduced in 1964, to be upgraded with advanced electronics, rather than being replaced in the near future.

The S-3B Viking aircraft, which is a larger carrier based aircraft than the fighter aircraft and entered service in 1974, was originally designed for anti-submarine warfare, but has seen its focus shift in recent years to place greater emphasis on an anti-surface combatant and surveilance roles, with anti-submarine warfare largely relegated to helicopters. The S-3B is scheduled to be retired in 2009.

In addition to those craft listed above Navy carriers are served by the C-2A Greyhound aircraft. This turboprop cargo craft supplies cargo to aircraft carriers. It has a capacity of 10,000 lbs. or 26 passengers. Each cost $39 million and there are currently 19 of them in service. They are scheduled to remain in service through 2015.

The F-35C is scheduled to replace the F-18. An earlier planned buy of this F-35C variant was 480 planes, but this has since been reduced to 680 F-35s of any kind for the Navy and Marines combined.

This is the heaviest and most expensive of the F-35 variants (the F-35A is the Air Force version, and the F-35B is a short takeoff, vertical landing variant for the Marines). Some critics have questioned whether the F-35C variant is really necessary, as opposed to using the F-35B short takeoff, vertical landing variant, like most of the world's non-U.S. aircraft carriers do, or using an upgraded version of the existing F-18 (although at an estimated $50 million each, an upgraded F-18 wouldn't necessarily be any cheaper than the F-35C). The United Kingdom will be purchasing planes of the F-35B version for its aircraft carriers.

Other Fixed Wing Aircraft

Another Naval Aircraft is the land based P-3 Orion, a turboprop patrol aircraft used for anti-submarine warfare which entered service in 1962. It is in the process of being replaced with a Boeing 737 based jet aircraft that will serve in the same role. The replacement aircraft has been designated the P-8 MMA (for multi-mission aircraft).

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