Home » Aviation » USNI News Video: What’s In A Carrier Air Wing?


USNI News Video: What’s In A Carrier Air Wing?

Aircraft assigned to Carrier Air Wing 9 (CVW-9) fly in formation above USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74) during an air-power demonstration in the South China Sea on May 17, 2016. US navy Photo

Aircraft assigned to Carrier Air Wing 9 (CVW-9) fly in formation above USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74) during an air-power demonstration in the South China Sea on May 17, 2016. US Navy Photo

This month USNI News goes into the detail on the roles of the aircraft on the U.S. aircraft carrier with Capt. Rich ‘Snap’ Brophy, the commander of Carrier Air Wing 9 (CVW-9) currently deployed on USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74) in the Western Pacific.

When a U.S. carrier air wing deploys, it carries all of the aircraft it needs to not only fight other air threats but also strike ground targets, hunt for submarines, jam enemy radars and perform tasks as simple as bringing on food and supplies aboard for the crew of the carrier.

Aboard Stennis, the carrier has eight squadrons — and a detachment of two aircraft — each tasked with carrying out a specific function for the carrier strike group.

More than half of the 70 aircraft on Stennis are one or two-seat Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets split between four strike fighter squadrons (VFA) attached to CVW-9. The strike fighters field a variety of weapons that can attack air or ground targets and are the primary offensive firepower in the carrier strike group.

The air wing also embarks with an electronic attack squadron (VAQ) made up of five Boeing EA-18G Growlers. The Growlers resemble F/A-18 F two-seat fighters and are loaded with equipment to jam and destroy enemy anti-air missile systems and help protect the rest of the air wing.

CVW-9 Overview_FINAL (1)The Northrop Grumman E-2C Hawkeye is a flying radar system that provides the location of aircraft and ships around the carrier. The information from the four aircraft onboard is distributed to not only the aircraft flying from the ship but also to the other ships in the strike group.

Two types of helicopters operate in the air wing split between two squadrons of Sikorsky MH-60S Knighthawks and MH-60R Seahawks. Knighthawks can be armed with weapons that can attack other ships while the Romeos are outfitted to hunt submarines and perform other roles in the strike group. Both can be used for search and rescue and to help resupply the ship.

Rounding out the air wing are two Northrop Grumman C-2A Greyhound cargo aircraft that are used to bring additional supplies and personnel to the ship at longer ranges than the helicopters.

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Categories: Aviation, Budget Industry, News & Analysis, Surface Forces, The Basics, U.S. Navy
Sam LaGrone

About Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone is the editor of USNI News. He was formerly the U.S. Maritime Correspondent for the Washington D.C. bureau of Jane’s Defence Weekly and Jane’s Navy International. He has covered legislation, acquisition and operations for the Sea Services and spent time underway with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the Canadian Navy.

  • sferrin

    What’s in a carrier air wing? Not enough. No ASW fixed wings, no long range strike, no tankers.

  • Ed L

    I thought carrier air wings had more than 90 aircraft. Oh, I remember now 24 phantoms , 24 A-7, 24 A-6, Four E-2. 4 EA-6B, 2 COD’s at least 4 S-3’s, 6 Angels back in the early 70’s

    • sferrin

      24 Tomcats, 24 Hornets, 10 Intruders, 4 Prowlers, 4 Hawkeyes, 4 KA-6Ds, 6 UH-60s, 10 Vikings. Total: 84. Base.

      edit: I’m missing something because now that I think of it 89 was the base number.

      • Ed L

        Hornets, Tomcats and Vikings in 1974? More like F-4’s Phantom A-4’s Skyhawk, A-7’s Corsair’s II A-3’s Skywarrior A-1D Skyraiders A-5 Viglante. The S-2 Tracker Grumman E-1 AEW, Sea King Helo. Sea Sprites helo. etc. A various of mix.

        • sferrin

          1974? Obviously not. You’d mentioned an earlier airwing composition. I did the same.

      • muzzleloader

        On the Enterprise Westpac 76-77, we had what you described only A-7 Corsairs instead of Hornets, and SH- 3’s vice H-60’s. Are you sure the Sea Hawks in your CAG were all utility models? There was no helo ASW? By the way I forgot, we had an A-5 Det. also.

        • sferrin

          Not sure on the Seahawk variants. Some were utility, some ASW. I seem to recall the ASW variant on the carriers is different than the one on surface combatants.

      • Jacek Zemło

        Yes, it seems you were missing something: 10 Vikings have been gone since they were (doubtfully) no longer needed as the ASW/ASuW/strike asset and (even more doubtfully) no longer needed as the tanker asset. Another 14 a/c per CVW were gone with Intruders force-retired. Out of 48-to-50 strikefighters only 44 are now authorized (two 12-plane squadrons, usually Supers and two 10-plane squadrons, some Supers, some Legacies). The number of helos reflects both the needs of the CV and “small boys” within the group. So the real number of aircraft on board now is well below 70.

    • sferrin

      I’re pretty sure they never had 24 A-6s as those were 10-ship detachments.

      • Ed L

        We always had 12 a/c in a squadron. I remember one time the Marines sent a squadron of F-4’s to Iceland with a manning of 300 to replace an Airforce squadron with 500 people.

  • publius_maximus_III

    Really enjoying this series, Sam. Thanks.

  • Why 11 Super Hornets? Where is the twelfth?

  • Ed L

    In 1983, Naval Air Systems Command revisited the Fokker F-28 to the extent of accomplishing a flight evaluation of the Fellowship at Fokker’s factory in Amsterdam and at NAS Sigonella. It would have had the payload of the C-2 and the range of the S-3. While the conclusion of the evaluation was that the “airplane has potential for the carrier-based carrier-on-board delivery, tanker, or AEW mission,” no contract resulted