The Leavenworth Way of War

History Discussion at CGSC

The Naval Air Force?

During the years 1919 to 1941 Naval Aviation carved out a place for itself in the Navy by being a member of the battleship team.  Naval aviation supported the battleship-centric fleet by finding the enemy fleet, fixing and harassing the enemy fleet through air attack, and defending the fleet from enemy air.  WWII forced navies around the world to recognize that airpower at sea had become the dominant capability of naval forces.  As a result, the aircraft carrier became the center of naval strategy, operations, tactics and force development.   However, the rise of the aircraft carrier in the US miltiary during WWII occured in an enviroment in which a US Air Force did not exist.  How did the absence of a US Air Force help the development of Naval Aviation in the US in the interwar years?

The first clash between the US Air Force and Naval Aviation over roles, missions, and most importantly, budget, occured after the draw-down of the US miltiary after WWII and was known as the “Revolt of the Admirals.”  Are we destined for another revolt of the Admirals?  What is the core capability of Naval Aviation today and is it worth the cost in the budget of maintaining a fleet built around aircraft carriers?  What does the aircraft carrier provide the US military that is unique and different from what the Air Force is capable of?  Should todays US Navy be built around a unique naval capability such as the submarine, rather than the aircraft carrier which seems to perform a similar role as the US Air Force?

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January 14, 2015 - Posted by | H200, military history, Professional Military Education | , , , , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. The roles of the Naval Air Power and USAF are complimentary, not redundant. Making a valid case for the demise of either is difficult, if not ludicrous. Collectively, they offer options. Individually, the USN affords strategic reach, flexibility, regional presence with out the commitment of land forces or land-based aircraft. Additionally, the USN can disperse and relocate in the threat of nuclear strike. Aside from nuclear weapons, the aircraft carrier group offers the world the most devastating weapon, both physically and psychologically. The USAF, as capable as they may be, just does not have the deterrence impact of a carrier group.

    Although I prefer the mantra of ‘having it and not needing it’ I don’t think a “revolt of the admirals” is likely. If the carrier capability is reduced, their will be concern. However, as I understand it, our nearest near-peer competitor just recently put to sea their first ‘certified used’ aircraft carrier. With that, I believe those in a position to lead a “revolt” (beyond typical and inevitable political bantering and jockeying about any decision the other party makes) are smart enough to realize the security of our conventional advantages.

    Comment by g.c. redford | February 17, 2015


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