Naval aviation has been restructured consistent with the force goals developed during the Bottom-Up Review. The Navy retired two active and one reserve carrier air wing (CVW), leaving 10 active wings and one reserve wing. A-6 attack aircraft continue to be retired, with the last of these planes scheduled to leave the force in FY 1997. With the A-6's retirement, the Navy deploys two types of fighter/attack aircraft aboard its carriers: F/A-18s and F-14s. An air-to-ground upgrade is being provided for most F-14s to give them the capability to employ laser-guided bombs (LGBs) from medium to high altitudes; this modification entails equipping the aircraft with LANTIRN forward-looking infrared pods. F-14s incorporating this feature became available beginning in 1996.
The structure of the basic carrier air wing evolved throughout the 1990s as A-6s were phased out of the force in favor of a mix of F/A-18 C/Ds and modified versions of F-14 fighters. Although it was initially planned that all wings would consist of one F-14 squadron and three F/A-18 squadrons, two wings retained the pair of F-14 wings deployed in the old Power Projection carrier air wing. The number of fighter/attack aircraft in each wing declined to about 50 from the previous level of about 56. The smaller wings are more flexible because they will operate a greater percentage of multirole aircraft, thus increasing the average number of precision strike-capable aircraft from 36 to about 50. The multirole Joint Strike Fighter is projected to enter the force beginning around 2010, replacing the F-14 in the Navy and both the AV-8B and F/A-18 in the Marine Corps.
|Composition of Carrier Air Wings|
|Air Wing Type||Aircraft Type (PMAI per CVW)||Number of Air Wings|
|FY 1995||FY 1996||FY 1997||FY 1998||FY 1999||FY 2000||FY 2001||FY 2002|
|Power Projection||F/A-18 (24), F-14 (20), A-6 (16)||6||3||--||--||--||--||--||--|
|Transitional [CVW-7, 8]||F/A-18 (24), F-14 (20) [a]||--||--||2||2||2||2||1||--|
|Littoral||F/A-18 (36), F-14 (14)||4||7||8||8||8||8||9||10|
|Reserve [CVW-20]||F/A-18 (48) [b]||1||1||1||1||1||1||1||1|
|Total CVW Navy Combat Aircraft (PMAI) [c]||574||544||470||468||468||468||474||480|
|Total CVW USMC Combat Aircraft (PMAI)||--||--||48||48||48||48||48||48|
|Total CVW Combat Aircraft (PMAI)||574||544||518||516||516||516||522||528|
PMAI = primary mission aircraft inventory. Denotes aircraft authorized to combat units for performance of their basic missions; excludes aircraft maintained for other purposes, such as training, testing, attrition replacements, and reconstitution reserves.
[a] Two air wings will maintain a second F-14 squadron in place of a third F/A-18 squadron until those squadrons transition to the F/A-18E in 2001 and 2002. Sources disagree as to whether these F-14 squadrons retain the 10 aircraft per squadron of the Power Projection Wing, or whether the total number of aircraft per squadron varies between 10 and the 14 of the Littoral Wing squadrons.
[b] The reserve air wing includes 48 PMAI F/A-18s, operated by three Naval Reserve squadrons (36 aircraft) and one Marine Corps Reserve squadron (12 aircraft). From 1995 on, the reserve air wing of F-14 (14 PMAI) and F/A-18s included 36 PMAI F/A-18s, operated by two Navy Reserve squadrons (24 PMAI) and one Marine Reserve squadron (12 PMAI).
[c] Total PMAI shown consists only of Navy F-14s, F/A-18s, and A-6s. The Marine Corps provides sufficient active F/A-18 squadrons to ensure 36 PMAI F/A-18s per deployed carrier air wing (actual numbers based on operating tempo requirements of each Service as determined by the Department of the Navy Tactical Aircraft Consolidation Plan).
The Marine Corps maintains four air wings -- three active and one reserve. In addition to the single-seat F/A-18 (which is identical to Navy models), the Marine Corps employs the two-seat F/A-18D as a multirole fighter, and also as a reconnaissance, forward air control, and tactical air control system for operations at night and in adverse weather. The AV-8B, while capable of multiple missions, is used primarily in the close air support role.
Composition of Marine Air Wings
FY 1998 - FY 2000
(Fixed-Wing Combat Aircraft -- PMAI and Squadrons)
Aircraft Type Mission Active PMAI (Squadrons) Reserve PMAI (Squadrons) Total PMAI (Squadrons) F/A-18 A/C Multirole 96 (8) 48 (4) 144 (12) F/A-18D Multirole 72 (6) 0 72 (6) AV-8B Close air support 140 (7) 0 140 (7) Total 356 (25)
Emerging needs and efficiency considerations have led to a new approach to managing Navy and Marine Corps F/A-18, F-14, AV-8B, and EA-6B peacetime deployments. In effect, these aircraft form a common pool for satisfying requirements of specific deployments. This approach increases flexibility for assigning either Navy or Marine squadrons to any naval mission and will help ensure that neither Service experiences excessive personnel deployments. The pool of available Marine aircraft decreased with the retirement of two F/A-18 squadrons by the end of FY 1997, though Marine F/A-18 squadrons deployed aboard aircraft carriers. Navy F/A-18 or F-14 squadrons also deploy as necessary to support Marine operations.Squadron aircraft are deployed to an advanced base either as a complete squadron or a detachment. Pre-deployment operations for the Carrier Air Wing includes training deployments as well as Carrier Qualification (CQ) periods, and Operational Readiness Evaluations (ORE).
In addition to Carrier Air Wings, other wing-level formations serve as the Type Wing Commander for assigned squadrons, providing direct operational, training, maintenance and administrative support, with some wings also serving as tactical operational formations. Administrative commanders, such as Type Wing commanders, are responsible for the aircraft material readiness, administration, training, and inspection of squadrons under their command. Operational commanders, such as Carrier Wing commanders, are responsible for the operational readiness, inspection, and overall performance of squadrons under their command.The Type Wing exercises control of training over assigned squadrons and recommends training requirements and methods to ensure optimum material readiness of squadrons. The Type Wing commanders are responsible for material readiness which includes aircraft configuration management and material condition, operating target accounting, training, and special programs for activities under their command. Type Wing Maintenance Officers are responsible to the Type Wing Commander in all matters pertaining to aircraft maintenance. Maintenance tasks divided into the number of levels required so common standards can be applied to the many and varied aircraft maintenance activities of the military establishment. They are increments of which all maintenance activities are composed. JOINT PUB-1-02 defines the three levels as depot, intermediate, and organizational.
D-LEVEL MAINTENANCE - Maintenance done on material requiring major rework or a complete rebuild of parts, assemblies, subassemblies, and end items, including the manufacture, modification, testing, and reclamation of parts as required. D-level maintenance serves to support lower levels of maintenance by providing technical assistance and performing maintenance beyond the responsibility of O-level and I-level maintenance. D-level maintenance provides stocks of serviceable equipment by using more extensive facilities for repair than are available in lower level maintenance activities. I-LEVEL MAINTENANCE - Maintenance which is the responsibility of, and is performed by, designated maintenance activities for direct support of using organizations. Its phases normally consist of calibration, repair or replacement of damaged or unserviceable parts, components, or assemblies; the emergency manufacture of nonavailable parts; and the provision of technical assistance to using organizations. O-LEVEL MAINTENANCE - Maintenance which is the responsibility of, and is performed by, a using organization on its assigned equipment. Its phases normally consist of inspecting, servicing, lubricating, adjusting, and replacing parts, minor assemblies, and subassemblies.Thus, Commander Strike Fighter Wing, is responsible for the readiness training of the strike fighter squadrons deploying on aircraft carriers. The Commander is responsible for all aspects of training, manning, maintenance, and logistics support for all units under his command, to to provide combat ready strike fighter squadrons trained to conduct carrier-based, all weather, attack, fighter and support missions as required by the fleet tactical commander. Commander, Strike Fighter Wing maintains close liaison with Commander Naval Air Forces and embarked Air Wing commanders in the execution of this mission.