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The aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) transits the Pacific Ocean.

Centennial of U.S. Navy Aircraft Carriers

20 March 2022

20 March 2022

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About the Centennial of United States Navy Aircraft Carriers

The [aircraft] carriers of today embody maneuver warfare, and they evolve as the Air Wing evolves, for it is the Air Wing that represents the true striking power of our Navy. -- Rear Adm. John F. Meier, Commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic, from the Commemoration of the 78th Anniversary of the Battle of Midway, June 5, 2020

On 20 March 1922, following a two-year conversion at Norfolk Naval Shipyard, the former USS Jupiter (Collier #3) was recommissioned as the United States Navy’s first aircraft carrier USS Langley (CV 1). Named in honor of Samuel Pierpont Langley, an American aircraft pioneer and engineer, CV 1 started as an experimental platform but was quickly proven an invaluable weapons system that changed how the US Navy fought at sea.

In the nearly 100 years since, from CV 1 to CVN 78, aircraft carriers have been the Navy’s preeminent power projection platform and have served the nation’s interest in times of war and peace. With an unequaled ability to provide warfighting capabilities across the full spectrum of conflict, and to adapt in an ever-changing world, aircraft carriers, their air wings, and associated strike groups are the foundation of US maritime strategy.

The 2018 National Defense Authorization Act codified the directorate by Congress that the people of the United States should be encouraged to celebrate the history of aircraft carriers in the United States and to always remember the vital role these vessels play in defending the nation’s freedom. It is appropriate that during the Centennial of United States Navy Aircraft Carriers, the Department of the Navy and the American public be afforded the opportunity to recognize the contributions of aircraft carriers to our national security and become acquainted with their rich and colorful heritage.

Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Warfighting Requirements and Capabilities announced on Oct 21, 2021 that the Department of the Navy will recognize the Centennial of United States Navy Aircraft Carriers (CONAC) in calendar year 2022.

Vice Admiral Kenneth R. Whitesell, Commander, Naval Air Forces leads and hosts the celebratory events for the Centennial of United States Navy Aircraft Carriers throughout calendar year 2022.

History of United States Navy Aircraft Carriers

The aircraft carrier is our U.S. Navy's centerpiece, our flagship, and a constant reminder to the rest of the world of our enduring maritime presence and influence. These ships touch every part of our Navy's mission to project power, ensure sea control, and deter our adversaries. -- Rear Adm. James P. Downey, Program Executive Officer, Aircraft Carriers, June 21, 2019

On 20 March 1922, the United States Navy made history when it recommissioned the USS Jupiter as the United States Navy’s first aircraft carrier USS Langley (CV 1). By the end of its first year as an aircraft carrier, USS Langley had been the site for numerous historic events: the first piloted plane launch from an aircraft carrier, the first landing in an Aeromarine, and the first aviator to be catapulted from a carrier's deck.

One hundred years after the commissioning of the first aircraft carrier, the modern fleet has evolved to include a mix of battleships and warships in each Carrier Strike Group. Today, aircraft carriers from two classes of nuclear-powered ships (Nimitz-class and Ford-class carriers) lead the modern-day fleet forces as they provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, deter aggression and assure national security. Congress mandates the U.S. Navy to operate 11 aircraft carriers throughout the world to maintain security, economic freedom and enduring commitments around the world.

Future of United States Navy Aircraft Carriers

Our nuclear-powered aircraft carriers remain the most survivable and versatile airfields in the world, and provide our national leaders valuable options across the entire competition continuum. -- Adm. Michael M. Gilday, Chief of Naval Operations, CNO NAVPLAN, Jan. 2021

Aircraft carriers are the most effective tool to project power, deter aggression, sustain sea control, and maintain America's enduring commitments around the world. The strategic advantage of aircraft carriers is not anchored – nor made vulnerable by – an anchored geographic location, but rather, is inherent in its maneuver capability. No other weapons system either in existence or conception has the responsiveness, endurance, multi-dimensional might, inherent battlespace awareness or command and control capabilities of a full sized, nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and its embarked air wing.

Nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and the carrier air wing are always evolving. Nimitz and Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carriers have the inherent adaptability to support the "Air Wing of the Future" and advanced technologies such as directed energy and unmanned systems to remain at the cutting-edge of warfighting across a 50-year service life.

The Air Wing of the Future will comprise of the Next Generation Air Dominance Family of Systems: a blend of platforms able to deny and defeat air and surface-based threats by employing kinetic and non-kinetic effects and will have vastly improved range and speed. The Family of Systems includes manned and unmanned platforms, weapons, sensors and networks that provide advanced, carrier-based power projection capabilities that extend the range the Carrier Strike Group.

The Air Wing of the Future consists of seven advanced platforms that demonstrate the unprecedented stealth, electronic warfare and vertical lift capabilities to deployed forces. The platforms include the F-35C Lightning II, F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, EA-18G Growler, E-2D Advanced Hawkeye, CMV-22B Osprey, MQ-25A Stingray, MH-60R Seahawk, and the MH-60S Seahawk. The Navy has begun integrating the Air Wing of the Future onto aircraft carriers – and this next generation of aircraft and capabilities will lead the charge to the new frontier of Naval Aviation.

The defensive systems aboard aircraft carriers and their air wings will continue to upgrade and evolve with emerging technologies, enabling the U.S. Navy to maintain superiority on the high seas.


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