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How Carrier Battle Groups Work

        Science | Navy

The Carrier Battle Group in Action
When a carrier battle group arrives at its destination, the 10 or so ships deploy and begin operations. There are approximately 80 aircraft available, and perhaps 8,000 men and women at work. There are two goals:
  • Accomplish the assigned mission
  • Defend the battle group against any type of enemy attack

The defensive role is an around-the-clock operation. Carrier battle groups must be constantly vigilant against attack from the air, from the sea and from underwater.

To accomplish its mission, a carrier air wing typically consists of nine squadrons, with 70 to 80 total aircraft. The more notable aircraft include:

  • The F/A-18 Hornet - A single-seat strike fighter jet designed to take out enemy aircraft as well as ground targets


    Photo courtesy Department of Defense - Defense Visual Information Center
    F/A-18 Hornet

  • The F-14 Tomcat - A two-seat fighter jet optimized for air superiority (A carrier's F-14 squadron is a crucial weapon in protecting the carrier battle group.)


    Photo courtesy Department of Defense - Defense Visual Information Center
    F-14 Tomcat preparing to refuel


    Photo courtesy Department of Defense - Defense Visual Information Center
    Flight deck personnel aboard the USS Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier preparing to launch an F-14 Tomcat

  • The E-2C Hawkeye - A tactical warning and control system aircraft (The aircraft's advanced radar system lets the air wing keep the fighter jets updated on enemy activity.)


    Photo courtesy Department of Defense - Defense Visual Information Center
    C-2 Greyhound launching from the USS Kitty Hawk

  • The S-3B Viking - A subsonic jet aircraft primarily used to take out enemy submarines


    Photo courtesy Department of Defense - Defense Visual Information Center
    S-3B Viking parking aboard the USS Kitty Hawk

  • The EA-6B Prowler - An electronic warfare aircraft (The Prowler's mission is to jam enemy radar and intercept enemy communications.)


    Photo courtesy Department of Defense - Defense Visual Information Center
    EA-6B Prowler aboard the aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy

  • The SH-60 Seahawk - A twin-engine helicopter primarily used to attack enemy submarines and in search-and-rescue operations


    Photo courtesy Department of Defense - Defense Visual Information Center
    SH-60B Seahawk, in the USS Saratoga carrier battle group

To provide a defensive view of the area, the destroyers have powerful radar systems that look upward to search for incoming aircraft. The E-2C Hawkeye aircraft launched from the carrier fly overhead and use their radar to look downward, letting them see low-flying aircraft and ships that may be approaching from over the horizon. The destroyers and frigate use sonar and magnetic sensors to look for submarines approaching from underwater. The goal is to create a sealed bubble around the carrier, with nothing able to enter the bubble without approval.

To learn more about carrier battle groups, aircraft carriers and related topics, check out the links on the follow page.


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