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Carrier Air Wings

Carrier Air Wings

There are currently 10 Navy carrier air wings: five based at NAS Oceana, Va., which support the Atlantic Fleet; four headquartered at   NAS Lemoore, which support the Pacific Fleet; and one forward deployed to NAF Atsugi, Japan.

Each carrier air wing is organized, equipped and trained to conduct carrier air operations while embarked aboard aircraft carriers. When deployed, each wing provides a wide array of aircraft types to provide carrier strike groups both the striking power and defensive capability to project America’s interests worldwide. An air wing consists of roughly 2,500 personnel and 60 to 65 aircraft.

The four carrier air wings based at NAS Lemoore are Carrier Air Wing 2, which supports USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72); Carrier Air Wing 9, which supports USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74); Carrier Air Wing 11, which supports USS Nimitz (CVN 68); and Carrier Air  Wing 17, which supports USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70). When deployed, each of these wings normally include F/A-18 Hornet strike fighters, EA-6B Prowler or EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft, E-2 Hawkeye early warning and control aircraft, C-2A Greyhound cargo aircraft, and MH-60S and MH-60R helicopters, which are used for anti-submarine warfare, search and rescue, anti-ship warfare, cargo lift and special operations.

Four CSFWP strike fighter squadrons are also periodically forward deployed to Naval Air Facility Atsugi where they support Carrier Air Wing 5 and USS George Washington (CVN 73), the only forward deployed aircraft carrier in the Pacific Fleet. Naval Air Facility Atsugi covers 1,250 acres and lies in the heart of the Kanto Plain on Honshu, the main island of Japan, which has been home to Carrier Air Wing 5 for many years. Currently, nearly 10,000 people live and work at the naval facility including American military members and their families, civilians and Japanese National employees.


The aircraft carrier continues to be one of our nation’s most visible symbols of military might. Each of the carrier air wings at NAS Lemoore support Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, which are the largest warships in the world. Each flight deck is 4.5 acres of sovereign U.S. territory.

The U.S. Pacific Fleet is the world’s largest fleet command, encompassing 100 million square miles, more than half the Earth’s surface, extending from the west coast of the United States to the east coast of Africa. The Pacific Fleet consists of approximately 180 ships, 1,500 aircraft and 125,000 Sailors, Marines and civilians.

Each aircraft carrier is the size of a small city. The ship has a crew of nearly 3,000 men and women, which grows to nearly 5,000 when deployed with a carrier air wing. When aircraft operate from their flight deck, the aircraft carrier’s crew and air wing personnel function as a single team, providing our nation with a potent, flexible and mobile force.


Carrier Air Wing 2’s motto, “For Liberty, We Fight,” is appropriate for a military organization that has served the cause of liberty since the end of World War II. CVW-2 currently includes three F/A-18 squadrons from NAS Lemoore. When deployed with the Pacific Fleet, they serve aboard USS AbrahamLincoln.

Other aircraft assigned to the wing include F/A-18 Hornets from NAS Oceana, Va.; EA-6B electronic warfare aircraft from Whidbey Island, Wash.; E-2C airborne early warning aircraft from Point Mugu, Calif.; and MH-60S and MH-60R combat search and rescue and anti-submarine helicopters and C-2 cargo aircraft from NAS North Island, San Diego.

Established May 1, 1945, the new “Battle Air Group” consisted of 96 F4U-4/FG-1D Corsairs and 46 SBW-4E Helldiver aircraft. From those early beginnings aboard USS Midway (CVB 41), the air wing has seen action on 13 carriers: in World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam, operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Operation Restore Hope over Somalia, Operation Southern Watch, and most recently, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Though the mix of aircraft assigned to CVW-2 has varied since its beginning in 1945, the unit mission has remained the same: to be prepared to conduct prompt and sustained combat operations from the sea in support of national interests.


In 2009, Carrier Air Wing 5 got underway from Yokosuka aboard USS George Washington for the first time. During the underway period, the air wing participated in Exercise Talisman Saber with the Australians, followed by a port call to Manila, the first U.S. carrier strike group to do so in more than 13 years. Following a short in-port period at Yokosuka, CVW-5 again deployed in support of ANNUALEX 21G, a joint exercise with the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force. On Dec. 15, following the return to homeport, the world-famous “Golden Dragons” of VFA-192 departed NAF Atsugi to affect its homeport change to NAS Lemoore. VFA-192 was replaced by the “Eagles” of VFA-115, flying the F/A-18E Super Hornet.

2010 saw CVW-5 participating in Exercise Invincible Spirit with the Republic of Korea, naval exercises with the Vietnam People’s navy, marking a 15-year anniversary of normalization of relations between the United States and Vietnam, and exercises Valiant Shield and Keen Sword. After their return to homeport, the “Dambusters” of VFA-195 flew to NAS Lemoore to complete a transition to the F/A-18E Super Hornet, while the BADMAN team got underway in response North Korea’s sinking of the South Korean ship Cheonan.

Following the March 2011 Tohoku earthquake, CVW-5 quickly responded to the disaster by supporting relief efforts with the use of elements from HS-14, HSL-51 and VRC-30 Det. 5, operating from NAF Misawa in northern Japan while VAW-115 provided airborne command and control for Japanese andU.S. rescue efforts. Due to the unknown radiological exposure as a result of the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant, CVW-5 fixed wing aircraft were evacuated to Guam and a voluntary evacuation of CVW-5 dependents to CONUS was conducted. More than 1,000 dependents left Japan. The entire BADMANteam and their families were happy to return to Japan in April 2011.

During the 2011 deployment, CVW-5 again saw the need to provide humanitarian assistance in Thailand following substantial flooding. USS George Washington and CVW-5 got underway from a port call in Singapore within 24 hours in order to position themselves to support aid for the country of Thailand. The “Chargers” of HS-14 again found themselves in the right place at the right time in order to support those operations.

The year 2012 marked an era of change again for the air wing as the “Gauntlets” of VAQ-136, flying the EA-6B Prowler for 31 years as a part of the air wing, were replaced by the “Outlaws” of VAQ-141, flying the EA-18G. This created the first ever “all Rhino” air wing in the fleet, thereby streamlining the maintenance and availability of parts and aircraft. During the 2012 deployment, the CVW-5 and USS George Washington team participated in a trilateral naval exercise with the Japanese and Korean navies in the East China Sea, as well as Exercise Valiant Shield.

CVW-5 finalized its entrance into the modern air wing era by welcoming the “Saberhawks” of HSM-77, flying the MH-60R, and the “Golden Falcons” of HSC-12, flying the MH-60S, to replace the “Chargers” of HS-14, who returned to NAS North Island in February 2013. These two new extremely capable helicopter squadrons will further enhance the lethality of CVW-5 for years to come.

The ability of CVW-5 to accomplish so much in the face of such adversity is extremely  important to the “big picture.” Maintaining the air wing’s continuous readiness gives the National Command Authority better flexibility in preparing for the future. Following a  condensed workup, CVW-5 deployed again with USS George Washington in 2013. Whether it is continued support of presence and deterrence in the Western Pacific, humanitarian assistance or a new threat that has yet to be determined, CVW-5 is ready for their next challenge.


Commissioned March 26, 1952, at NAS Alameda, Carrier Air Wing 9 has since deployed on 11 different aircraft carriers and participated in operations during the Korean War, Vietnam, Operation Desert Storm, Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Anaconda, Operation Iraqi Freedom and the global war on terrorism.

Currently, CVW-9 includes four strike fighter squadrons from NAS Lemoore. When deployed, they serve aboard USS John C. Stennis.

Other aircraft assigned to the wing include E-2C airborne early warning aircraft from NAS Point Mugu, Calif.; EA-6B Prowler electronic warfare aircraft from NAS Whidbey Island, Wash.; and MH-60S and HH-60R Seahawk helicopters and C-2 cargo aircraft from NAS North Island, Calif. In January 2009, it integrated an HSM helicopter squadron and its cruiser destroyer detachments into the air wing structure for the first time, with the MH-60R detachments operating from CCSG-3 cruiser destroyer assets.


Commissioned on Navy Day 1942, Carrier Air Wing 11 recorded a significant number of “firsts” in attaining its place as one of the Navy’s top fighting organizations.

In June 1943, the pilots of the group conducted the first daylight raids in combat during the Solomon Islands and New Georgia campaigns of World War II. During the Korean conflict, it was the first naval air group to shoot down MiG fighters.

With the addition of RA-5C Vigilante, A-6A Intruder and E-2 Hawkeye aircraft in 1965, Air Wing 11 deployed aboard USS Kitty Hawk to Vietnam as the most modern, complex strike group ever assembled.

In 1972, Air Wing 11 deployed aboard USS Kitty Hawk with 107 aircraft, employing both tactical aircraft and anti-submarine aircraft on the same carrier for the first time.

Deploying to the Arabian Gulf in 1991, the wing was a part of the first battle groups to operate in the Gulf during the summer months.

Aircrews assigned to Carrier Air Wing 11 have participated in nearly every military conflict, including World War II, Korea, Vietnam and Iraq. They’ve patrolled nearly every area within the Pacific Fleet’s area of responsibility, including the Indian Ocean, Red Sea, Mediterranean Sea and North Arabian Sea. Currently, CVW-11 includes four strike fighter squadrons from NAS Lemoore.


The air group that would come to be known as Carrier Air Wing 17, Carrier Air Group 82 was created during World War II on April 1, 1944, in Atlantic City. Air Group 82 deployed for one of the last combat tours of the war aboard USS Bennington (CV 20) as the first air group to operate from her decks. The air group operated in the Pacific for the remainder of the war, supporting the assault on Iwo Jima and the Japanese home islands. During the battle for Okinawa, the air group was the first to attack the Japanese super battleship Yamato, which resulted in the ship sinking.

Following the war, the air group was redesignated Carrier Air Group 17 (CVAG-17) and redeployed to the East Coast in 1946. Until the air group was deactivated in September 1958, Air Group 17 operated with the Atlantic Fleet and deployed to the Mediterranean and North Atlantic aboard USS Franklin D. Roosevelt, USS Wasp and USS Coral Sea.

Air Group 17 was reactivated in November 1966 as Air Wing 17 (CVW-17) and assigned to USS Forrestal (CV 59). Just six and a half months after re-forming, the air wing deployed to the Tonkin Gulf aboard Forrestal. CVW-17 flew its first combat missions into Vietnam July 25, 1967. On the fifth day of combat operations, a Zuni rocket was accidentally fired across the Forrestal’s flight deck resulting in a catastrophic fire. Herculean efforts eventually controlled the flames, but not before 134 men were killed (including 112 air wing personnel) and 21 aircraft were destroyed.

More recently, from January to April 2010, CVW-17 deployed aboard USS Carl Vinson in support of Partnership of the Americas (POA). Only a few days into CVW-17’s deployment, a massive earthquake struck Haiti. CVW-17 aircraft and crews were called upon to provide three weeks of Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HA/DR) in support of Operation Restore Hope.

From November 2010 to June 2011, CVW-17 deployed aboard USS Carl Vinson in support of operations Enduring Freedom and New Dawn. After an abbreviated, five-month turnaround, CVW-17 again deployed from November 2011 to May 2012 aboard USS Carl Vinson in support of Operation EnduringFreedom.

In October 2012, the CVW-17 staff changed its permanent duty station from NAS Oceana, Va., to NAS Lemoore, Calif.


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