CARRIER AIR WINGS
There are currently 10 U.S. Navy carrier air wings: five based on the East Coast at NAS Oceana; four based on the West Coast at NAS Lemoore, California; 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 five carrier air wings based at NAS Oceana are Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 1, which supports USS Enterprise (CVN 65); CVW-3, which supports USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75); CVW-7, which supports USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVS-69); CVW-8, which supports USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77); and CVW-17, which supports USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70).
When deployed, each of these wings normally include F/A-18 Hornet and Super 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-60 and MH-60R helicopters, which are used for anti-submarine warfare, search and rescue, anti-ship warfare, cargo lift and special operations.
The mission of the carrier air wings includes the planning, coordination and integration of aviation squadrons in all weather conditions to maintain air superiority for offensive air attacks, destruction of enemy aircraft and missiles, destruction of enemy ships and submarines, electronic intelligence, airborne early warning, airborne electronic countermeasures, and search and rescue operations.
Following is the mission and brief history, since 2000, for each of the five carrier air wings homeported at NAS Oceana. For a complete history on each wing, see the NAS Oceana website at www.cnic.navy.mil/oceana.
CARRIER AIR WING (CVW) 1
CVW-1 has been in commission longer than any other Navy air wing. Since commissioning on July 1, 1938, CVW-1 has served aboard 19 different aircraft carriers and made more than 50 major deployments and had a majority of the East Coast squadrons as members of the Navy’s “First and Foremost.”
CVW-1’s current squadrons include three strike fighter squadrons homeported at NAS Oceana (VFA-11, VFA-136 and VFA-211); VAQ-137, equipped with EA-18G aircraft; VAW-125, equipped with E-2D aircraft; HS-11, equipped with SH-60F and HH-60H helicopters; and VRC-40 Detachment ONE, equipped with C-2A cargo aircraft.
After being in homeport since March 2000, CVW-1 deployed in September 2001 aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) — just eight days after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon — to support attacks on the Taliban and al-Qaida forces in Afghanistan. CVW-1 flew 7,086 sorties — 3,016 in direct support of OEF while employing a multitude of munitions during its deployment.
CVW-1 continued to support America’s war on terrorism during the 2003 deployment as part of the Enterprise Carrier Strike Group in execution of an aggressive Strike Warfare Campaign. During operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, the
Air Wing flew 11,029 sorties and 19,524 flight hours.
The 2006 combat deployment was followed by a second surge deployment seven months later to the U.S. Central Command theater of operations, supporting combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
During its 2007 deployment, CVW-1 flew more than 1,678 combat missions, expending 73 air-to-ground weapons in support of coalition forces. Following the successful 2007 surge deployment, CVW-1 and USS Enterprise (CVN-65) returned to the Hampton Roads area for an extended maintenance and training period. April 2010 marked the beginning of CVW-1’s workups for its 2011 deployment.
CVW-1 deployed in early January 2011 in support of overseas contingency operations. During this deployment, CVW-1 safely executed 1,448 combat missions in support of International Security Assistance Forces in Afghanistan. In total, CVW-1 executed 7,926 sorties, and surpassed more than 400,000 arrested carrier landings — the most in USS Enterprise(CVN-65)’s history.
This deployment marked the first Navy employment of the GBU-54 laser guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions in combat, ultimately resulting in the GBU-54 becoming the weapon of choice for joint terminal air controllers in Afghanistan. Additionally, USS Enterprise (CVN-65) and CVW-1 supported three counterpiracy operations directly resulting in 21 suspected pirates being captured and four killed in action.
After a quick turnaround, on March 11, 2012, the USS Enterprise (CVN-65) commenced its 25th and final deployment and Tarbox quickly returned to an established battle rhythm. The Air Wing provided successful CAS, EW, and ABCC support to ground troops with 2,241 OEF combat sorties. As a whole, Tarbox flew more than 9,400 sorties with over 8,700 traps.
After back to back deployments aboard the USS Enterprise (CVN-65), and upon her decommissioning, CVW-1 became part of Carrier Strike Group Twelve (CSG-12) and was once again assigned to the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) in August 2013 at the completion of her mid-life RCOH. The landscape of the Air Wing changed with VAQ-137’s transition to the EA-18G Growler and the welcoming of VAW-125, the first squadron to transition to the E-2D. CVW-1 embarked on the Rooselvelt on March 9, 2015, and departed Norfolk for the Arabian Gulf. From April until October of 2015, Tarbox flew 1842 combat sorties in Iraq and Syria in support of operation Inherent Resolve and employed 1,113 precision guided munitions, totaling more than 510 tons of ordnance, in the fight against ISIL. Tarbox aircraft and personnel returned to their home bases upon Roosevelt’s return to its new home port of San Diego, California, on Nov. 23, 2015.
CARRIER AIR WING (CVW) 3
Established July 1, 1938, CVW-3 is one of the two oldest air wings in the U.S. Navy. Initially commissioned as Saratoga Air Group, CVW-3 participated in many fleet exercises introducing carrier aviation to the fleet. During World War II, CVW-3 served aboard USS Saratoga (CV 3), USS Yorktown (CV 5) and USS Enterprise (CV 6), participating in many naval engagements in the Pacific theater. “Team Battle Axe” fought in the battles of Midway, Guadalcanal, Philippine Sea and Iwo Jima, and flew many strikes against the Japanese home islands.
In November 2000, CVW-3 marked its 25th deployment by joining USS Harry S. Truman (HST) (CVN 75). The Battle Axe/Truman team spent four months on station in the Arabian Gulf conducting several response option strikes in support of Operation Southern Watch. This was HST’s first deployment, and “Team Battle Axe” has been with it ever since.
On Dec. 6, 2002, CVW-3 and HST departed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, remaining in theater to participate in Operation Iraqi Freedom. CVW-3 launched aircraft from HST off the coast of Egypt in the southeastern Mediterranean in support of operations in western Iraq. From October 2004 to April 2005 “Team Battle Axe” deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. After Hurricane Katrina hit in September 2005, CVW-3 provided logistical assistance, including the rescue of several stranded victims. In November 2007, “Team Battle Axe” deployed to the Arabian Gulf for its 28th deployment, returning in June 2008.
“Team Battle Axe” has since completed two highly successful deployments aboard USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) to the Arabian Gulf from May 2010 to December 2010 and again from July 2013 to April 2014.
CVW-3 is comprised of seven squadrons including VFA-32, VFA-105, VFA-131, and VFA-86 from NAS Oceana. Other assigned squadrons include VAQ-130, VAW-126, HSM-74 and HSC-7. Currently CVW-3 is attached to USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) and ready to deploy anywhere worldwide.
CARRIER AIR WING (CVW) 7
CVW-7 is under the operational control of Carrier Strike Group 8, and embarks on USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). Seven squadrons are assigned to the air wing including four strike fighter squadrons homeported at NAS Oceana: VFA-103 “Jolly Rogers,” in the F/A18E; VFA-143 “Pukin’ Dogs,” in the F/A-18F; VFA-83 “Rampagers” and flying the F/A-18C. Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 140 “Patriots” fly the EA-6B and are stationed at NAS Whidbey Island; Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 121 “Bluetails” fly the E-2C; and Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron (HSC) 5 “Nightdippers” fly the SH-60F and HH-60H helicopters.
CVW-7 was commissioned July 20, 1943, at Alameda Naval Air Station, California, and commenced combat operations against the Japanese on Sept. 6, 1944, by striking the Palau Islands in preparation for amphibious lands there.
In the past decade, CVW-7 deployed six times to the Middle East returning in July 2013 from its most recent deployment.
In 2002, CVW-7 deployed to the Indian Ocean with USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67). There, CVW-7 conducted strikes and close air support missions in Afghanistan during the outset of Operation Enduring Freedom. CVW-7 returned to the Middle East in 2004 aboard USS George Washington (CVN 73) and again in 2006 aboard Ike to participate in Operation Enduring Freedom as well as Operation Iraqi Freedom, conducting several thousand missions in support of troops on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2009 and again in 2010, CVW-7 deployed to the Indian Ocean to conduct combat operations in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
CARRIER AIR WING (CVW) 8
The mission of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8 is to conduct offensive air operations against both land and sea targets and provides for carrier strike group (CSG) defense and sustained air operations in support of other forces as directed. Embarked aboard USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), CVW-8 employs a mix of sophisticated aircraft capable of air warfare, strike warfare, anti-submarine warfare and electronic warfare.
The air wing consists of eight squadrons. The strike/fighter role is fulfilled by four NAS Oceana strike fighter squadrons: VFA-31 and VFA-87 with F/A-18E and VFA-213 with the F/A-18F Super Hornets; and VFA-37 flying the F/A-18C Hornet. Airborne early warning and airborne command and control are the responsibility of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 124 with the multi-mission E-2C Hawkeye. Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 9 flies the MH-60S and is responsible for search and rescue/combat logistics. The complex, dynamic realm of anti-submarine warfare is the domain of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 70, flying the MH-60R Seahawk helicopter. Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron (VAQ) 141 flies the new Boeing EA-18G Growler, providing electronic attack and electronic surveillance to enhance the Navy’s capabilities and survivability in today’s electronically oriented combat environment.
CVW-8 began operations June 1, 1943, from NAS Norfolk, Virginia, and was initially assigned to USS Intrepid (CV 11). Since its initial commissioning, CVW-8 has been decommissioned twice, first in 1945 following World War II and then again in 1949. In April 1951, CVW-8 was commissioned for the third time and has remained operational ever since.
In 2000, CVW-8 executed its Interdeployment Training Cycle, in preparation for the 2001 deployment. Operations included flight deck certification, Orange Air, Independent Steaming Exercise, TSTA II/III/FEP, and air wing integration training.
In 2001, CVW-8 completed a 6.5-month deployment culminating in the initial strikes of Operation Enduring Freedom. JTG 01-2 began with detachments in Tunisia, Corsica and Israel, as well as a half-dozen port visits throughout the Mediterranean. In June, a portion of the battle group sailed north of Scotland to participate in the Joint Maritime Course (JMC), a multinational training exercise. The first three months of deployment brought the battle group together as a team while delivering more than 195,000 pounds of NCEA. Starting in early July, the air wing took the reins of Operation Southern Watch (OSW) from CVW-2. Here the air wing refined its tactics using small self-escort packages on time-sensitive strikes. Over a six-week period, the air wing released more than 29,000 pounds of ordnance against a variety of Iraqi targets. USS Enterprise and CVW-8 were the first in theater after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The lessons and coordination honed during OSW proved directly applicable to the Operation Enduring Freedom environment. During 16 days of combat operations, CVW-8 flew 680 sorties and delivered more than 770,000 pounds of precision-guided munitions.
On Feb. 19, 2002, the air wing was reassigned to Commander, Roosevelt Battle Group. In July 2002, CVW-8 began accelerated workup operations leading to a combat deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. In October 2002, CVW-8 integrated VFA-201, the first reserve squadron to be activated in more than 50 years. Deploying in January 2002 for Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX) on USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), the Theodore Roosevelt Strike Group was deployed to the Mediterranean Sea to support operations in Operation Iraqi Freedom. In combat operations from March to April 2003, CVW-8 completed more than 1,002 combat sorties, flying more than 5,000 hours (75 percent of which were at night) and delivering 1 million pounds of precision-guided weapons on target. Returning to NAS Oceana in May 2003, CVW-8 was chosen as the test platform for the CNO’s Fleet Response Plan initiative. Deploying in September 2003 with USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), CVW-8 maintained an exceptional COMPTUEX level in all areas, and completed the at-sea period with an impressive 99 percent sortie completion rate and a grade of B-1 in all strike metrics.
In March 2004, CVW-8 began workups and on Sept. 1, 2005, CVW-8 embarked again on USS Theodore Roosevelt for an extended deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and maritime security operations in the Arabian Gulf. The air wing safely executed 16,000 sorties and 38,980 flight hours, achieved an unprecedented 97.3 percent sortie completion rate and expended more than 61,000 pounds of ordnance during this deployment. In response to time-sensitive targeting and operational requirements, the air wing provided forward deployed support from Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, and Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait, to coalition ground forces. The superior efforts of the CVW-8 and USS Theodore Roosevelt team were recognized by award of the “Jig Dog” Ramage Award for the best performance by an integrated unit, and the Adm. James H. Flatley Award for Safety Excellence. This was the last deployment of the F-14 Tomcats as fighter squadrons (VF) 31 and VF-213, the Navy’s final two F-14 squadrons, began transitioning to the FA-18E/F Super Hornet shortly after their return.
The beginning of 2008 saw CVW-8 return to its workup schedule as it spent the better part of the year participating in air-to-air Strike Fighter Advanced Readiness Program (SFARP), Tailored Ship’s Training Availability (TSTA), COMPTUEX, Air Wing Fallon and Joint Task Force Exercise before deploying in the fall of 2008. On Sept. 8, 2008, CVW-8 and USS Theodore Roosevelt deployed, beginning a 7.5-month deployment to assist in the global war on terror in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. While in transit to relieve CVW-14, CVW-8 made a brief stop in Cape Town, South Africa, before arriving in the North Arabian Sea in October. While on station, the air wing flew more than 3,100 sorties, delivering 19,500 pounds of ordnance in support of troops on the ground in Afghanistan.
In early April 2009, the USS Theodore Roosevelt/CVW-8 team returned to their homeport of Norfolk.
In August 2009, CVW-8 was assigned to the Navy’s newest aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) and began their workup cycle in June 2010 in preparation for the initial deployment. CVW-8 spent the latter half of 2010 and beginning of 2011 sharpening the air wing’s warfighting skills in preparation for their upcoming combat deployment during SFARP, TSTA, Air Wing Fallon and C2X/JTFEX. A deployment of firsts, in May 2011 CVW-8 deployed the first U.S. Navy all F/A-18 air wing with the introduction of the EA-18G Growler. Additionally, CVW-8 deployed with the first MH-60S squadron and first East Coast maritime strike variant, the MH-60R. While deployed, CVW-8 participated in joint tactical exercises Saxon Warrior, Trident Mariner, Indigo Serpent, Infinite Acclaim, Nautical Artist and Invincible Trident. CVW-8 expended more than 41,000 pounds of ordnance and flew more than 30,000 flight hours during combat operations supporting Operation New Dawn in Iraq and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, as well as S.A.V.E. missions off the Horn of Africa.