F-14 Tomcat

When Grumman ruled the flight deck: clip shows when a typical US Navy Carrier Air Wing was filled with many beautiful, colorful and different aircraft

Carrier strike group

No single platform did more to transform 20th-century sea power than the aircraft carrier. The range and the combat power a carrier strike group can project quickly outpaced the massive guns of the battleship that dominated the seas prior to World War II.

According to USNI News, Naval fighters could strike hundreds of miles away from their carriers leaving enemies with no idea where the attacks originated. After World War II, carrier strike groups became the most visible expression of American sea power.

Today Carrier Air Wing

Today a typical U.S. Navy Carrier Air Wing (CVW) is associated with the McDonnell Douglas, now Boeing, F/A-18 variants.

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In fact the typical mix of a current CVW is one F/A-18F (two-seat) Super Hornet squadron, and three single-seat F/A-18E Super Hornet squadrons (before the F/A-18C retirement there was a mix of Super Hornet and Hornet squadrons. Today the Strike Fighters Squadrons (VFA) are equipped only with Super Hornets). Another version of the F/A-18, the EA-18G Growler have replaced the EA-6B in the Electronic Warfare role. The CVW is completed with the E-2 Hawkeye for the Airborne Early Warning (AEW) mission and with the SH/MH-60 Seahawk as Search And Rescue (SAR) and Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) platform. The logistic duty of the Carrier Onboard Delivery (COD) is provided by the C-2 Greyhound.

Even though the first F-35C squadrons are starting to appear on US Navy aircraft carriers, the today flight deck is still nearly all Super Hornet.

Carrier Air Wing between the end of the 1970s and the early 1980s

But, as the beautiful video in this post shows, there was a time when the Carrier Air Wings crowded the decks with airplanes of different shapes, sizes and capabilities. Called Air Power at Sea, the clip includes several footage used for the motion picture “The Final Countdown”, during which the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN-68) travels through time to the day before the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.

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This video shows the typical composition of a CVW between the end of the 1970s and the early 1980s. In fact the Carrier Air Wing 8 (CVW-8) then embarked onboard the Nimitz consisted of two Fighter Squadrons equipped with the F-14 Tomcat, one medium Attack Squadron which flew with the A-6 Intruder and two light Attack Squadrons that flew the A-7 Corsair II, while a dedicated version of the Intruder, the KA-6D, ensured the aerial refueling. Another A-6 variant, the EA-6B Prowler, was the dedicated electronic attack platform, while the S-3 Viking performed both the ASW and the Sea Control duties. The CVW was completed by the E-2C Hawkeye for the AEW mission and with the SH-3 Sea King for SAR role, whilst another Grumman bird, the C-1 Trader still flanked the C-2 as COD.

Grumman ruled the deck

As you can see in the footage, not only a wide variety of aircraft composed a standard CVW, but the Grumman Aerospace Corporation, the historic airplanes builder for the US Navy, still ruled the deck of the flattops. Today with the F-14 and the A-6 retired and the EA-6B replaced by the Growler, the only Grumman Ironworks product left in the CVWs is the E-2, with the Hawkeye fleet upgrading to the D variant.

Once the CVWs were also more colorful: as you can see in the video in fact, most of the aircraft were painted in beautiful high visibility liveries, even if the F-14 Tomcats from the VF-41 Black Aces already sported the low visibility markings, a steady constant of today Carrier Air Wings airplanes.

Photo credit: Pinterest

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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