New Challenges . . .

Enduring Realities

Naval forces have the ability to go anywhere rapidly, remain on station for indefinite periods of time using sea-based logistics support, and project effective military power across any shore and against any adversary. Naval Aviation forces - aircraft carriers and aviation-capable amphibious ships with their embarked air wings and aviation combat elements, land-based maritime patrol and support aircraft, and helicopters operating from surface combatants and auxiliary ships - are linchpins of U.S. naval power.
Much has changed in the past 200 years, and change continues to accelerate as we approach the 21st century the strategic landscape in 1997 is dramatically different from the height of the Cold War. All that acknowledged, there are several enduring realities that must be understood to ensure that Naval Aviation's foundation remains relevant to meet the challenges ahead.

Naval Power's Critical Roles

All of America's armed forces make valuable contributions to protecting U.S. interests, citizens, and friends wherever and whenever they might be at risk. But the Navy-Marine Corps team - and naval air power - play a unique role. The United States is a maritime nation with vital national interests which depend upon the nation's ability to control the seas. In the wars and conflicts in which the United States found itself engaged during the 20th century, typically more than 95 percent of all material and equipment needed for victory went by sea. This will continue to be the case, and the United States will continue to require seaborne access throughout the world - access that can only be assured by robust naval forces.

U.S. naval forces also possess extraordinary strategic reach, and the daily operations of America's Sailors and Marines have the potential to affect the majority of the world's inhabitants. Seventy-five percent of the earth's population and a similar proportion of national capitals and major economic centers lie in the littorals. This means particularly that Naval Aviation's expeditionary operations from the sea provide the United States with an enduring and decisive capability to shape and influence events on land.

In the 1992 strategic concept paper, ...From the Sea, the Navy and Marine Corps confirmed the primacy of littoral operations and the need to influence and control events on the shore. In 1994, Forward...From the Sea refined even more the naval strategic vision and highlighted the vital role of forward-deployed forces in underwriting regional stability. One of the most critical advantages of naval forces is that they provide on-scene deterrence, sea control, and power projection capabilities, and do so without infringing upon any nation's sovereignty. This advantage exists because naval forces operate in international waters and enjoy freedom of movement throughout the high seas.

This forward-deployed posture contributes significantly to regional deterrence and our ability to project military power when and where it is needed. Regional political and military elites - our friends and adversaries - must always be mindful of the military capabilities residing in an aircraft carrier battle group (CVBG) or amphibious ready group (ARG) that remains just offshore, waiting for the President's direction. These routine and sometimes not-so-routine deployments to forward areas also provide the basis for projecting and sustaining military power in regional conflicts, for ensuring full-spectrum dominance of the littoral battlespace, and for securing lodgments to enable entry of land-based forces.

The Requirement for Effective Crisis Response

During the Cold War, from 1946 through 1989, the Navy-Marine Corps team responded to some 190 crises, about one crisis-response operation every 11 weeks. In about 80 percent of these situations, the focus of the U.S. response was an aircraft carrier battle group, an amphibious ready group, Marine Corps aviation, or land-based naval air power. In the 1990-1997 period, the Navy and Marine Corps have been called upon to respond to crises and combat in over 75 instances, or one crisis response every 3 1/2 weeks - more than double the Cold-War rate. Again, Naval Aviation has played a central role in most of these cases. 

Thus, forward-deployed naval forces and Naval Aviation are a superb means of signaling U.S. capabilities and resolve to friends and foes alike. Not constrained by host-nation political restrictions, the deployment of naval forces is not subject to a foreign veto. In times of tension or conflict, tactically mobile naval forces do not present an adversary with large, vulnerable, fixed targets. Operating from sea bases, Naval Aviation can reach littoral trouble-spots quickly,
provide self-sustained, long-range operations for extended periods of time, and move at a moment's notice to respond to newly emergent requirements. By its very nature, sea-based aviation allows the nation's leaders to react to events in a measured but militarily significant manner, increasing or decreasing the weight of their presence as events ashore dictate.

Continuing Advances in Military Technology

The swift and decisive victory of the United States and its allies in the 1991 Gulf War gave the world its first glimpse of an emerging method of warfare, one in which new technologies and operational concepts could lead to significant advances in warfighting capability. Naval Aviation is taking full advantage of ongoing technological and doctrinal innovation that will be the basis for operational excellence in the next century. Naval Aviation's leadership will remain ready to adapt to new imperatives of warfare, including the prospects that future adversaries will harness technologies and approaches that may not be symmetrical to ours. We must be ready to ensure that we - not our foes - enjoy the advantage of operational and technological superiority.


The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff explained his vision of America's future military in Joint Vision 2010. Four fundamental operational concepts dominant maneuver, precision engagement, focused logistics, and full-dimensional protection - serve as the foci for the development of all joint warfighting capabilities. Importantly, these four operational concepts are already embodied to a large degree in America's expeditionary naval air power. But we cannot stand still.

Innovation and change have been the watchwords of Naval Aviation since its earliest days. The ability to adapt to new technologies, systems, platforms, and operational needs is nowhere better exemplified than in the design and 50-year operational history of the USS Midway (CV 41). Designed during World War II, in 1945 this "flattop" initially operated piston-driven propeller aircraft, yet returned from her last deployment in 1991 with the Navy's most modern, multipurpose strike-fighters. Her original axial-deck design was modified to an angled-deck layout, her original hydraulic catapults were replaced with more powerful steam catapults, and the most basic electronics replaced by advanced sensors and communications equipment. Indeed, every time a carrier deploys it carries leading-edge systems that - when combined with effective tactics and well-trained people - ensure it can meet almost any warfighting requirement.

Naval Aviation's future will build upon this heritage of innovation and tactical and operational excellence. From the next-generation aircraft carrier, to advanced multi-mission aircraft such as the Joint Strike Fighter and the Common Support Aircraft, to tilt-rotor aircraft, Naval Aviation's Vision is one of adaptation, evolution, and success.


Naval Aviation Vision Statement  Chief of Naval Operations Forward  Commandant of the Marine Corps Forward
  Introduction  New Challenges...Enduring Realities  Naval Aviation:  Capabilities for Today... and Tomorrow
Sharpening the Vision:  The Process  Section 1:  Element Definitions and Goals
Section 2:  Program Plans, Descriptions and Roadmaps  Acronyms  Director Air Warfare Closing Remarks