After nearly nine months at sea, the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson is back in its homeport at San Diego.
The Navy announced in a press release that the Carl Vinson spent two hundred sixty-two days at sea and sailed more than 80,000 nautical miles. The deployment included “maritime security operations, integrated training between surface and air units, long-range maritime strike, anti-submarine warfare, information warfare operations, maritime interdiction operations, personnel recovery, air defense operations, multiple ship navigation and formation maneuvering, and refueling-at-sea operations.”
The USS Carl Vinson undertook exercises alongside the navies of the United Kingdom, New Zealand, the Netherlands, India, Germany, Canada, and Australia.
“Alongside our partners and allies, we have aggressively pursued every opportunity to elevate our combat readiness in a drive to continue upholding regional stability,” said Rear Adm. Dan Martin, commanding officer of the Carl Vinson’s strike group. “We’ve been doing this for 75 years and I’m proud to say that our team has relentlessly paid tribute to this legacy with many long hours of sweat and determination that started well before we left San Diego.”
The Wave of the Future
The USS Carl Vinson is the first United States Navy carrier to fly with a mix of fourth- and fifth-generation aircraft on board, what the Navy calls the “Air Wing of the Future.” This mixed force includes F-35C Lightning IIs, CMV-22B Ospreys, F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, EA-18G Growlers, E-2D Advanced Hawkeyes, MH-60R Sea Hawks, and MH-60S Sea Hawks. The Navy expects the Air Wing of the Future will also include MQ-25 Stingray unmanned aircraft system in 2025.
The new air wing comes from the recognition that the Navy faces new challenges than in the past.
“This is just a complete change – the near peer competitor with activity that is in the air, on the surface and the sea and below the surface and the sea,” Martin said, according to USNI News. “And it’s a constant all the time. So you have to shape the air wing… to best handle that activity. And we’ve made some recommendations to what we can do better in that regard.”
The USS Carl Vinson deployed with two extra EA-18G Growlers electronic attack aircraft, bringing the carrier’s Growler fleet to seven. Martin said that the Growler’s advanced sensors pair well with the F-35C. The carrier also deployed with an extra E-2D Advanced Hawkeye airborne early warning aircraft.
Paired with the CMV-22B Osprey, which can ferry men and material between carriers and other flattops, and at night and unassisted by arrestor wires, the “air wing of the future” is shaping up to be the most capable American carrier in history.
Caleb Larson is a multimedia journalist and defense writer with the National Interest. A graduate of UCLA, he also holds a Master of Public Policy and lives in Berlin. He covers the intersection of conflict, security, and technology, focusing on American foreign policy, European security, and German society for both print and radio. Follow him on Twitter @calebmlarson.