WHITHER TACAIR INTEGRATION? [4 page PDF]

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spazsinbad

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Unread post02 Jan 2020, 15:57

WHITHER TACAIR INTEGRATION? [4 page PDF of article attached below]
Feb 2020 Rick Burgess Combat Aircraft Mag'n

"...Marine TACAIR squadrons on navy carriers was nothing new. During the last year of World War Two, marine F4U Corsair (VMF) fighter squadrons deployed on carriers to contribute to air defense in view of the kamikaze threat. A few VMF, all-weather VMF(AW), and VMFA squadrons deployed on attack carriers in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, including during the Vietnam War. Marine attack (VMA) squadrons provided a few air defense detachments of A-4 Skyhawks on board anti-submarine carriers. Even an AV-8A Harrier VMA deployed on the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt. Marine Corps photo-reconnaissance (VMFP) and tactical electronic warfare (VMCJ) squadrons also sent detachments to carriers, as well as A-6 Intruder VMAs and F/A-18 Hornet VMFAs joining air wings in the 1980s.

During the 1990s, a routine developed where the marines would provide four VMFAs — one each to four CVWs — when they deployed....

...The reasoning and logic for TACAIR integration
In the early 2000s, with F/A-18E/F Super Hornets coming on line and the F-35 in development, budget realities began to sink in with a realization that the desired naval aviation force structure was becoming unaffordable. US naval aviation was facing the need to develop and field new aircraft to concurrently replace many of the older ones....

...over the succeeding years, the number of marine units committed to and able to deploy with a CVW has declined to just one. It is equipped with F/A-18Cs, whereas the navy active component VFAs all have made the transition to the F/A‑18E/F as of early 2019, when VFA-34 gave up its F/A-18Cs for new E-models.

A plan in decline
The reason for the decline in VMFA support for the navy carrier air wings is not totally clear, but one factor is the transition to the F-35C Lightning II. The first USMC F-35C unit, VMFA-314 ‘Black Knights’ — traditionally one of the squadrons in the carrier rotation — is currently in transition and scheduled to be ready for carrier deployment in 2022. Another factor is the logistics problem of supporting a handful of F/A-18Cs in a CVW — this is now the domain of the Super Hornet.

On paper, at least, the plan now is for the marines to supply four F-35C squadrons to support navy air wings. It’s the primary reason the service is acquiring the carrier variant of the Lightning II. The USMC’s intention is to procure 353 F-35Bs and 67 F-35Cs and the move to the new aircraft will once again allow the two services to dovetail the on-board logistics chains.

During this current period of turbulence, the stability of the CVWs is clearly affected by a lack of marine VMFAs. More often today, the air wings are deploying with a ‘stand-in’ VFA to fill a hole in the inventory. Although squadrons work up together in preparation for a deployment, the ‘churn’ — swapping squadrons — has an intangible but real effect on the culture within the CVW. Squadrons often remain together in an air wing for many years, even decades, and develop a level of teamwork that exceeds the sum of its parts. This was particularly notable among the pairs of fighter squadrons (VFs) during the era of the F-4 Phantom II and F-14 Tomcat...."

Source: Combat Aircraft Magazine February 2020 Volume 21 No.2
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TACAIR Integration Combat Aircraft Feb 2020 pp4.pdf
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Unread post02 Jan 2020, 19:33

spazsinbad wrote:
During the 1990s, a routine developed where the marines would provide four VMFAs — one each to four CVWs — when they deployed....



It appears the author was not around in the 1990s. There is a simple reason the 4 USMC squadrons are integrated into CVWs and it wasn't an accident. Sure, there was the new "From the Sea" and "Forward, From the Sea" strategies that were focused on the littorals but that wasn't the reason.


When the 90s rolled around, the Navy and USMC were being reduced in size as a result of the peace dividend. But, the Navy was also going through its perennial F-18 pilot shortage while, because of planned reductions, the USMC had too many F-18 pilots. Voila! USMC kept more squadrons than they would have and the USN reduced accordingly. Pilot shortage solved, at least temporarily. It has remained that way ever since.

Why does it continue? Because if DoN wanted to change it, they would have to cut 4 USMC squadrons and the USN would have to grow 4 USN squadrons and all the associated manpower numbers, training throughput, etc. Much simpler to just leave it. And while I have no great insight into the planning for the USN/USMC F-35C transition, it is worth noting that there is once again an USN F-18 pilot shortage and prioritizing the USMC squadrons to get their F-35Cs first helps alleviate (short for "Kick the Can Down the Road so it is Someone Else's Problem) said shortage.

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