The Evolving Future for Naval Aviation


In this Special Report, Second Line of Defense looks at the training for air wing integration and the preparation for the future.

The USN both in its carriers and its amphibious fleet provides a significant expeditionary capability.  The USMC-USN team has been reshaping amphibious assault forces under the influence of the Osprey, the coming of the F-35B, the addition of new ships such as the T-AKE and USNS Montford Point, the USS Arlington, and the USS America.

Less visible have been the coming of the USS Ford and the reworking of the strike fleet. The USS Ford is less about operating as a traditional carrier than as a key C2 and strike enabler for an entire sea-base force, surface, subsurface, joint and coalition.

Interviews with senior leaders in USN aviation combined with interviews from the senior officers at the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center at Fallon provide a look at how the USN is preparing and thinking about its operational future.

A key element of the Special Report is combing the two — senior leadership with current training — in our analyses.

Fallon trains the integrated Naval air wing for the carrier; Rear Admiral Mike Manazir, the head of Air Warfare for the Navy, works to enhance its capabilities.

Manazir is a battle hardened carrier admiral.

His perspective in the Pentagon in building out the capabilities of the air wing revolves around the necessity to prevail in 21st century operations.  It is not about looking backward; it is about preparing the air wing of the future with a clear eye to its evolving capabilities.

By chance our interview occurred shortly after the initial tests of the F-35C aboard the Nimitz and our trip to Fallon. The Admiral focused on both the impact of fifth generation and the building out of the integrated capabilities of the air wing.

According to the Admiral: “The F-35 is not an A or an E or an F; it is all of those. Earlier we had an F-14, an A-6 and an EA-6B and needed all three to do our job; now one airplane blends those capabilities and we can leverage that as we look at the integration of the other capabilities of the air wing we are developing.

Fifth generation is opening up so many possibilities that how we used to think about our capabilities is changing; how do we wring out the full capabilities of the air wing with the fifth generation as a catalyst for change?


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