Naval aviation has had a glorious past. There were glimmers of its importance to the Navy mission as far back as World War I and throughout the 1920s and ’30s. Then in World War II and the years that followed, naval aviation became the centerpiece of the Navy, exemplified best by the question asked by a series of presidents in crisis: “Where are the carriers?
All in all, it’s been a great century for naval aviation, but what will the next century bring? What, indeed, will the next half-century bring?
The present is a good place to begin to answer such a question; but first, a caution. Almost 60 years ago, after an evening meal in 1954, a number of air-group pilots gathered on the open forecastle of the USS Wasp (CV-18). This was before the angled deck and hurricane-bow conversion, so the forecastle was a pleasant place to have a smoke and tell tall tales. There wasn’t much night flying in those days, which facilitated things.