Air Wing Shortfalls
Today’s air wing bears little resemblance to the one in service nearly 25 years ago during Operation Desert Storm. Into the mid 1990s, the carrier deck was full of a variety of single-role platforms—fighter, attack, antisubmarine, and early warning. All were designed from the ground up to fulfill a specific role in naval operations. The F-14D Tomcat projected long-range air superiority, while the A-6 Intruder carried bomb loads of up to 18,000 pounds 878 nautical miles from the carrier.1 The S-3 Viking was able to project both antisubmarine and antisurface warfare power in defense of the strike group.
Currently, a pair of multirole fighter-attack aircraft make up the striking power of naval aviation. The F/A-18 “Legacy” Hornet, capable of carrying 25 percent less ordnance half as far as the A-6, is notorious for its high fuel consumption rate. The F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet, with its increased range and capacity, still equates to a 35 percent reduction in combat radius compared to the A-6.2