ComNavOps has long been saying that the carrier force is on a steady downward trajectory and that we are headed for a 8-9 carrier force. Here is further proof of the trend, as reported by USNI News website (1). The Navy is asking Congress for permission to deactivate Carrier Air Wing 14 which would reduce the number of air wings to 9.
Absorb that number: 9 air wings.
That means that, regardless of the number of carriers we have, we can only ever deploy 9. By law, the Navy is required to have 11 carriers even though we only have 10 now since
was retired and Ford won’t be commissioned for a few
years, yet. The Navy obtained a
Congressional waiver for this period. By
law, the Navy must maintain 10 air wings.
Ten air wings was one less than the number of carriers and recognized
the reality that one carrier is always in extended overhaul and unavailable for
combat. Thus, 10 deployable carriers and
10 air wings. Now, the Navy is claiming
that two carriers will always be in extended overhauls so only 9 carriers are
deployable and, therefore, only 9 air wings are needed. Enterprise
This is simply paving the way for a permanent reduction from 11 carriers to 10. Eventually, the Navy will make the argument that with only 9 air wings, it makes no sense to maintain 11 carriers and they’ll propose eliminating a carrier, probably the next one slated for a mid-life nuclear refueling.
We’ve repeatedly noted that the air wings of today are far smaller than the air wings when the Nimitz class first commissioned and yet we’re building bigger carriers. Some people have suggested that this is not a problem and, in fact, is a good thing since it allows us to surge aircraft to the carriers in the event of war. My response to this nonsensical notion is, where will these surge aircraft come from? We only have 9 air wings. Each will be deployed in war. Where are these extra surge aircraft? There aren’t any and dropping another air wing is only going to make the situation worse.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the Navy is so desperate to build new ships, whether useful or not, that they’ll sacrifice anything to do so. Now, it’s an air wing. Next it will be a carrier.
We’re pivoting to the Pacific, supposedly, an area that is lacking airbases and the Navy is trying to drop air wings and carriers? What kind of sense does that make?
(1)USNI, “FY 2017 Budget: Navy Asks Congressional Permisson to Shutter Carrier Air Wing”, Megan Eckstein,
February 9, 2016,