Military Review

How the US Navy aircraft carriers changed: the war in Bosnia and the SURGEX exercises

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USS Nimitz in the late 1990s somewhere off the coast of Canada. Photo source: Wikimedia Commons


“The United States is moving USS Theodore Roosevelt into the Adriatic Sea to reach targets in the former Yugoslavia.
According to Navy sources, the ship has moved out of the Mediterranean and is due to reach positions by Tuesday evening Washington time. The Roosevelt carries over 50 combat aircraft, including 36 F / A-18s and 14 F-14s.
The Pentagon said this redeployment of the ship should be interpreted as a "cautious move" in light of the current tensions following Monday's shelling of a civilian market. It is reported that the request for the transfer of the aircraft carrier came from US Admiral Leighton Smith. The stop on the island of Rhodes, scheduled for the ship on Tuesday, has been canceled ... "

- excerpted from CNN's article US moves aircraft carrier closer to Bosnia. August 29, 1995 release.

After the end of the Cold War and the doctrinal shock experienced by the Navy during the implementation of Desert Storm (you can read more about this in the article "How the US Navy Aircraft Carriers Changed: Lessons from Desert Storm"), the American navy began to actively reform.

In the end, he had no choice - with the disappearance of the USSR Navy in 1991, American warships lost all non-strategic nuclear weapons... Value fleet was immediately questioned - especially ardent critics of the Navy proposed to reduce its composition from 451 ships by 2-3 times.

However, the era of local wars was approaching - and it was simply impossible to conduct expeditionary campaigns without the support of the fleet. The US Department of Defense has rejected the most ardent proposals for a reduction in the Navy.

The composition of the naval forces, although they should have been curtailed, but according to the concepts set forth in the doctrinal and revisionary document (... with North Korea and Iraq), as well as maintaining a military presence in several regions of the world (for example, in Africa and the Caribbean).

The very nature of the tactical tasks facing the fleet has changed radically. There was no longer a need to repel the attacks of Soviet missile carriers, to fight submarines and destroy missile cruisers. Local wars required advanced mine action, strikes against ground targets in the face of anti-air defense, well-developed logistics and well-functioning amphibious operations.

By the time Operation Deliberate Force began, the US Navy had significantly changed its approach to manning aircraft carrier squadrons and the types of weapons they used.

For example, the outdated A-6 Intruder attack aircraft did not fit well for the realities of the 90s and were gradually decommissioned. Organizationally, the fleet moved to a qualitatively different level, which was very different from that demonstrated during Desert Storm.

How the US Navy aircraft carriers changed: the war in Bosnia and the SURGEX exercises
An EA-6B Prowler electronic warfare aircraft during Operation Force Deliberate. Photo source: World Atlas

The "deliberate force" is also notable for the fact that aircraft carriers of three other countries took part in it: Britain, France (2 AB) and Italy (although only American and French carrier-based pilots took part in combat missions directly).

“British and French aircraft carriers headed for the Adriatic Sea today and the United States is poised to send more fighter-bombers to bases in Italy as NATO has officially begun counting down on its demand that the Bosnian Serbs lift the siege of Sarajevo within 10 days, the military said.
A Pentagon spokesman said eight US F-15E attack aircraft will fly to Aviano, and two AC-130 attack helicopters and two EC-130 mission control centers in Brindisi from bases in the UK this weekend, joining roughly 100 NATO aircraft in Italy. .. "

- excerpt from the article Conflict in the Balkans; US and Allies Send More Planes for Possible Strikes in Bosnia by The New York Times. February 12, 1994 release.

List of aircraft carriers that took part in Operation Force Deliberate:

▪️ USS "Theodore Roosevelt", type "Nimitz" (USA),
▪️ USS "America", type "Kitty Hawk" (USA),
▪ "Foch", type "Clemenceau" (France),
▪️ "Clemenceau", type "Clemenceau" (France),
▪️ HMS "Arc Royal", type "Invincible" (UK),
▪️ "Giuseppe Garibaldi", type "Cavour" (Italy).

As such, the start of the operation began precisely with the actions of the US Navy: the missile cruiser USS Normandy struck 13 Yugoslav air defense targets using the latest Block-III Tomahawks with GPS guidance and the TERCOM system. Then it was for aviation...

In the skies over Bosnia, carrier-based attack aircraft were presented by the F / A-18 Hornet. For eleven days of the operation, sea-based aviation made 583 sorties and another 165 patrolmen. Ground-based aircraft (US Air Force) flew 774 sorties and 392 patrols. In addition, ground-based aircraft of the Marine Corps also took part, which, however, did not perform combat missions - only patrolmen.

This time, the naval aviation carried out most of the strike missions using precision weapons: it was mainly represented by laser-guided bombs GBU-24 and AGM-65 Maverick missiles. If in 1991 naval aircraft used only 2% of high-precision weapons of the total number of dropped bomb loads, then in 1995 it was already about 90% - at least such figures were presented in a report by the US Institute for Defense Research 3 years after the conduct of " A deliberate force. "

The hit statistics, however, were in favor of the Air Force, not the Navy. Ground aviation inflicted 618 hits with precision weapons, achieving 374 hits (66,6% of the total number of targets hit), the Navy - 98 (26,2%). Despite the change in the composition of the squadrons, the carrier-based aviation was not able to achieve 4 sorties per plane per day - only 1,5. On average, F / A-18s flew 53 sorties per day, which, of course, did not suit the fleet command at all.


An F-16 fighter-bomber lands at the Italian Aviano airbase after returning from the bombing of Republika Srpska. Photo source: Wikimedia Commons

The air operation in Bosnia reaffirmed the correctness of the conclusions drawn after Desert Storm: with all their advantages, aircraft carriers cannot compete in the number of sorties with ground-based aircraft. But the fleet, however, did not agree with them, as well as with the need to introduce new types of aircraft made with the use of stealth technology ...

“Squadrons of carrier-based aircraft can operate on many more targets than ever before. We can make even more combat missions, and each of them will be unusually productive due to the use of high-precision weapons, which are now armed with our strike aircraft ... "

- Vice Admiral of the United States Navy Dennis W. McGinn.

In early 1997, the Navy planned a large-scale demonstration of the capabilities of aircraft carriers associated with an increase in the number of sorties - the Navy wanted to prove that carrier-based aircraft can be no less effective than ground-based aircraft.

On July 20, 1997, the fleet began an exercise called SURGEX (or Revolution in Strike Warfare). In 98 hours, the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz, represented by its air wing (CVW-9), made 975 sorties. Of this impressive number of sorties, 771 (79%) were shock (unguided BDU-45s were used), as a result of which 1 bombs were dropped on training targets. In this case, only F / A-336 fighters were used. The results of their work were simply phenomenal - 18 flights per day!

The rest of the sorties (21%) fell on the EA-6B Prowler electronic warfare aircraft and the S-3 Viking anti-submarine aircraft (which, however, served as tankers).

The navy immediately announced an incredible success - and also that such a rate of sorties can be realistically maintained in combat operations, and in general it could become the standard standard of work for carrier-based aviation. Naturally, such reports had little to do with reality - SURGEX took place in extremely specific conditions, which would have been practically impossible to provide directly in a war.

Firstly, the fleet thoroughly prepared for the exercises, wanting to show just such an impressive result - already 16 hours before the start of SURGEX, the personnel and aircraft were completely ready for departures. USS Nimitz took on 25 additional pilots for the F / A-18 - with the regular number of pilots, such an intense work seemed absolutely impossible.

Most importantly, the main volume of refueling in the air was carried out by the flying tankers KC-135 and KC-130 of the US Marine Corps and the US Air Force - the share of Vikings and the fuel storage of the aircraft carrier itself accounted for only a quarter of the total volume of refueling.

Logistics became the most sore point of the exercise: the stocks of bombs and fuel were depleted in less than a day, and they had to be replenished from a supply ship. The deck crews could hardly withstand the stress associated with the excessively high rate of departures - on average, it took less than 18 hour and 1 minutes for a full service cycle for one F / A-20.

But what was especially important: not a single combat sortie in these 98 hours exceeded a radius of 320 km! From the experience of shock operations in the Persian Gulf, such a distance looked almost pistol-like and had nothing to do with real combat operations.

SURGEX have clearly demonstrated that it is, of course, possible to provide 4 sorties per day per fighter - but it is pointless. The aircraft carrier's logistics were not suitable for such an overloaded combat work - it was not quantity that was required, but high efficiency.

The fleet showed obvious changes, both in its tactics and strategy, it was transformed under the new conditions of war at sea, but it did not do it quickly and efficiently.

New qualitative changes were required - but we will talk about them next time.
Author:
Photos used:
World Atlas Wikimedia Commons
34 comments
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  1. Anzhey V.
    24 December 2021 18: 13
    +10
    A warning from the author for readers - an overlap happened, and in violation of the chronology, the second article from my planned cycle on changes in the US Navy in the 90s was published.

    The first material on "Desert Storm" will be released a little later.
    1. Konstantin Pekhlivanov
      Konstantin Pekhlivanov 25 December 2021 18: 51
      0
      Thanks! I didn't find it, but it was painfully interesting.
  2. Artyom Karagodin
    Artyom Karagodin 24 December 2021 18: 16
    -16
    Oh, Anzhey is again trying to get into the topic on which he was mercilessly beaten by the more literate authors of "VO". However, and not only by them. Probably, everything will end again with the uselessness of aircraft carriers. That's what 1155 will be happy with lol
    1. Anzhey V.
      24 December 2021 18: 52
      +8
      Dear Artem, your comments keep me worried about your mental health over and over again. Maybe you should contact a specialized specialist, since you are worried about hallucinations with a kind of "beat"? At the same time, tell him that while reading a text of a historical nature, you see there some kind of nonsense that no one wrote about.

      This is not sarcasm, don't think - I'm really worried about you.
      1. Artyom Karagodin
        Artyom Karagodin 24 December 2021 20: 03
        -8
        Don't worry about me. I just remember your disputes with A. Timokhin and M. Klimov, in which your ignorance in military matters emerged so clearly that I wrote about it using the word "bit". If you think you looked convincing, I sympathize. And do not try to portray intellectual innocence, you perfectly understand what I mean.
        1. Anzhey V.
          24 December 2021 20: 36
          +7
          If I were you, I would show sympathy for myself - you are like a grown man, and over and over again you scribble nonsense and ordinary libels under each of my articles, like a bazaar woman. The fact that you ran to write some kind of incoherent nonsense in the comments, without even reading the material, is more than exhaustive about your level.

          All the previous months, I ignored you and, perhaps, will continue to do this in the future - communicating with liars and gossips does not give me pleasure. All the best)

          And yes, please stop chasing "white noise" in the comments - have pity on people, do not litter them.
          1. Artyom Karagodin
            Artyom Karagodin 24 December 2021 21: 24
            -7
            Thank you for putting aside your politeness.

            What you call slander and gossip is based on your own comments and publications, so these are just conclusions, not gossip. I consider you an ignoramus in military matters, whose "creativity" clogs the minds of readers much more than my "white noise". I also admit that this is done deliberately. Because in one of our previous dialogues you somehow hinted that the publicists who prove the need for a more competent development of the fleet than now are acting on the order of the Navy. Think for yourself, you are by no means a fool. I’ll only be glad if I’m wrong, but so far I don’t see any reason to think otherwise.

            Further. I read your material in full before I wrote a comment, so the slanderer and liar in this case is not me at all). Well, yes, sarcasm in the commentary is present in large quantities, perhaps even overkill. But I will wait for your next publication. If this assumption is not confirmed, I will apologize. Because I am not used to slandering anyone. Even those who have ceased to be respected from a certain moment.

            And, yes, please stop posting on VO. Sounds stupid, right? Your request not to comment on your writings also looks stupid. I will write what I think is necessary. And you, since you have already taken up the pen, get used to the fact that not everyone will sing your praises to you.
          2. Normal ok
            Normal ok 25 December 2021 21: 46
            +1
            You are giving analysis. Not flawless - but still .. This is how it should be on IN !!
            1. Anzhey V.
              25 December 2021 22: 48
              +1
              Thank you for your assessment) I try to select interesting material with an emphasis on the analytical component - although, indeed, not always perfect.
  3. Pessimist22
    Pessimist22 24 December 2021 19: 28
    -2
    I am not an opponent of aircraft carriers, but now I think that it is more preferable for Russia to build submarines with various missiles, for me this is a more effective combat unit. Of course, for prestige, one could have one type of Nimets, in the Northern and Pacific fleets, but now economically it is necessary to develop ...
    1. strannik1985
      strannik1985 24 December 2021 20: 30
      +4
      I am not an opponent of aircraft carriers, but now I think that it is more preferable for Russia to build submarines with various missiles

      The problem with CC and stability.
      Bypassing the question of price - at the moment the aircraft carrier is the best means of fighting for domination at sea.
      1. Anzhey V.
        24 December 2021 20: 46
        +4
        the aircraft carrier is the best means of fighting for supremacy at sea


        Very well noticed - in fact, in the article, which was supposed to be published first, it was told that the US Navy for decades had been preparing aircraft carriers for the war for supremacy at sea.

        In general, it is worth writing separately about the Naval Strategy of 1986 - perhaps this is the most comprehensive offensive aircraft carrier doctrine in history ...
        1. Artyom Karagodin
          Artyom Karagodin 24 December 2021 21: 35
          -4
          Judging by this comment of yours, I must apologize for these words of mine:

          Oh, Anzhey is again trying to get into the topic on which he was mercilessly beaten by the more literate authors of "VO". However, and not only by them. Probably, everything will end again with the uselessness of aircraft carriers. That's what 1155 will be happy with lol
          .

          Perhaps I will also apologize for other charges if I see that I was wrong.
        2. Konstantin Pekhlivanov
          Konstantin Pekhlivanov 25 December 2021 22: 22
          0
          Yes, it is worth writing about Maritime Strategy. We kindly ask you.
          1. Anzhey V.
            25 December 2021 22: 47
            0
            Necessarily, Constantine)

            I'll start with this very topic next month.
      2. 911sx
        911sx 25 December 2021 00: 59
        +1
        Aircraft carriers have proven this, and more than once. This is not so much a striking force at sea (and it is not small), but an opportunity to strike first. Eyes and ears - Hawkeye, guidance, target designation, command post ... It remains to introduce UAVs - refueling tankers (not everywhere KS 130 is applicable). I think in a couple of years they will begin to be supplied to aircraft carriers.
        1. strannik1985
          strannik1985 25 December 2021 06: 32
          0
          Aircraft carriers have proven it

          on the sea - the key word, the aircraft carrier itself is a platform for aircraft, and the wing configuration can be different (universal, shock, anti-submarine, air defense). Any Hornet can be used as a refueller; they have had systems like our OPAZ for a long time.
          1. 911sx
            911sx 25 December 2021 18: 22
            0
            Quote: strannik1985
            Aircraft carriers have proven it

            on the sea - the key word, the aircraft carrier itself is a platform for aircraft, and the wing configuration can be different (universal, shock, anti-submarine, air defense). Any Hornet can be used as a refueller; they have had systems like our OPAZ for a long time.

            Any F 18, as a tanker, is a minus to shock and other information security tasks. So, what I consider to be the most valuable UAV for AUG is a refueling tanker. In addition, with a more capacious tank in comparison with the same UPAZ
            1. Orsis338
              Orsis338 25 December 2021 19: 12
              0
              Time F-18, as tankers pass MQ-25 goes to replace them
            2. Avior
              Avior 26 December 2021 04: 37
              0
              The superhornet, which can be used as a refueller, is versatile and allows flexible use according to the situation.
              Appears to strike at an ultra-long distance.
              An account "minus" is still unknown. Refuellers do not take off at the same time as the strike group, all aircraft carrier in one strike group still cannot release, especially if the size of the air collapse is higher than the usual number of 50-60 pieces for peacetime
        2. Santa Fe
          Santa Fe 25 December 2021 07: 25
          +1
          how much opportunity to hit first.

          When and who did the American AVs hit first?
          1. Beregovic_1
            Beregovic_1 23 January 2022 18: 38
            0
            The Japanese at Midway ... Not?
            1. Santa Fe
              Santa Fe 25 January 2022 04: 21
              0
              The Japanese at Midway ... Not?

              No

              At Midway, the Flying Fortresses struck first.
      3. The comment was deleted.
      4. Usher
        Usher 25 December 2021 02: 19
        -1
        Quote: strannik1985
        I am not an opponent of aircraft carriers, but now I think that it is more preferable for Russia to build submarines with various missiles

        The problem with CC and stability.
        Bypassing the question of price - at the moment the aircraft carrier is the best means of fighting for domination at sea.

        You just need to set the right goals. And not to solve problems for the sake of problems. Is it necessary to dominate the sea? For example, Russia? I do not see any sense in domination at sea, for example, near the Caribbean islands? Or Taiwan? Or Iceland. What does Russia need there to drive an aircraft carrier there? Cover submarine missile carriers and protect ports. Here is the minimum program. And in order to defend the "interests" in the open ocean, you need to have real "interests" that is, precisely the economic benefit, and not the political one.
        1. strannik1985
          strannik1985 25 December 2021 07: 11
          +1
          You just need to set the right goals.

          In general, the traditional goal is to ensure the protection of the SSBN combat service area during the threatened period.
          What does Russia need there to drive an aircraft carrier there?

          You see, what is the matter, the events in the conditional "Iceland" can directly affect the interests of the national security of the Russian Federation, no matter how pathetic it sounds. The coups of the so-called "Arab Spring" led to the creation of not just a ramified terrorist organization, but an entire state, and we are very lucky that the primary goal of this strategy is Iran, that is, there is someone to fully fight on land, invest resources, etc. etc., etc. If this infection is not stopped in time, sooner or later we will get a bunch of additional problems at home, in the countries of the former USSR, on our border. What does the aircraft carrier have to do with it? And this is just a means to ensure local air supremacy off the coast of Libya in 2011 or as part of a permanent grouping of the Russian Navy in the NWM since 2013.
    2. mmaxx
      mmaxx 25 December 2021 02: 23
      +2
      The aircraft carrier can perform almost all tasks at sea. That is why they are being kept. PL is not all.
      1. Xlor
        Xlor 25 December 2021 12: 59
        +2
        The aircraft carrier can perform almost all tasks at sea

        Only where there is no serious opposition ...
        1. Mustached Kok
          Mustached Kok 26 December 2021 00: 52
          0
          Only now the aircraft carrier is able to defend itself. The Americans (as in principle in NATO) train, practice and adopt tactics to defend themselves with the help of aviation. There is always, if necessary, a dedicated link of fighters to provide air defense, missile defense and anti-aircraft missile defense of the ship. Aviation quickly and at a great distance from the ship detects the threat and eliminates it. The advantage of such a defense is that we deal with the threat of the ship long before the approach. A conventional rocket must first survive a meeting with a fighter that has detected a rocket. And if suddenly the plane could not shoot down, they would be ready to meet them by the time of flight, because the fighter had already reported that a rocket was flying towards them, from what angle and approximate flight parameters. Not to mention the fact that if a missile / ship / plane is found at a sufficient distance, then from the aircraft carrier they can manage to raise another group to intercept so that with a great chance to destroy the target before approaching. As a result, if the aircraft carrier is interfered with, its crew and the air wing will not take it for granted and will accept reality. They are able to work even when they are disturbed. The effectiveness does reduce (due to the fact that part of the wing will always be allocated for protection), but will still be able to conduct an operation to search, detect and destroy targets at sea, on the coast and in the interior of the continent.
          The air wing makes the aircraft carrier a dangerous system and unaccompanied. By itself, like a ship, it is just a huge and fast ship with weak own air defense and a huge price without the ability to use many important straits.
          But an aircraft carrier is not a ship, no matter how strange it may sound. An aircraft carrier is the aircraft on board. The strength of an aircraft carrier in its aircraft. And aviation is still one of the most dangerous structures in the largest armies of the world. It is far from the fact that someone in the future will decide to use their nuclear arsenal in a war. But aviation is used by everyone and whenever possible.
  4. Aviator_
    Aviator_ 24 December 2021 20: 54
    +1
    For example, the outdated A-6 Intruder attack aircraft did not fit well for the realities of the 90s and were gradually decommissioned.

    As a combat aircraft, of course, by this time it was already outdated, but it has been used since the 80s as a flying laboratory to test certain solutions. In particular, it worked out the concept of the CCW wing - a wing with controlled circulation. A slit jet was blown out at the trailing edge, providing lift control without flaps and flaps. We also tested this concept, but it did not come to flight tests.
  5. mmaxx
    mmaxx 25 December 2021 02: 20
    0
    In general, this is all understandable. It is much more difficult to provide flights from an aircraft carrier than from a ground airfield.
  6. Mountain shooter
    Mountain shooter 25 December 2021 06: 50
    0
    Quote: Anjay V.
    The first material on "Desert Storm" will be released a little later

    We wait. Unfamiliar topic. Became interesting. It turns out that not everything is so simple with these floating airfields.
    1. Anzhey V.
      25 December 2021 14: 25
      +2
      It turns out that not everything is so simple with these floating airfields.


      Quite frankly, it was a revelation for me myself the number of doctrinal and tactical changes that American aircraft carriers went through in the 90s. In domestic journalism, they are still described within the framework of the concepts of the Naval Strategy of 1986, although since then everything has changed more than once ...

      And the experiences of the American fleet, like the SURGEX exercises, are a separate interesting topic that sheds light on the real capabilities of nuclear aircraft carriers and how they should be correctly applied.
  7. Avior
    Avior 26 December 2021 04: 29
    +1
    But what was especially important: not a single combat sortie in these 98 hours exceeded a radius of 320 km!

    I think this is not an entirely accurate statement. Based on the results of the exercises, a detailed report was issued, it contained fairly detailed diagrams on the intensity of sorties, purpose and range. Yes, most sorties, according to the report, were at medium distances, but there were also long distances.
    I have the report somewhere in the archives, I'll get to the computer, I'll try to open it.
    The main limitation in the number of sorties in the report is the work of deck crews.
    You need to understand that the preparation of the aircraft for departure does not differ very much in time from the departure range - you need to refuel, service and hang up the weapon in any case.
    In addition, there were obvious conventions in the exercises - for example, with weapons - it is clear that no one actually delivered strikes, and no one tried to use weapons for a thousand sorties, it was too expensive a pleasure. Similarly, with the range of flights, no one tried to burn the maximum amount of fuel, which is too expensive even for the States, therefore, there, as in all exercises, there were conventions, including in terms of range and armament. But the maintenance, preparation for departure and the flights of the planes themselves were carried out in reality.
  8. evgen1221
    evgen1221 30 January 2022 14: 38
    0
    With the collapse of the union, many began to doubt the need for such a large fleet, but SUDDENLY the era of LOCAL wars began. And it’s not because of the fuss of local wars that it was unprofitable for many people in the states and the world to lose money from contracts with the US Navy? The reduction is exactly minus the dough, and profits should never fall.