Tomcat Wing vs Hornet Wing, 30 Years Ago Today

The Forrestal-class aircraft carrier USS Independence (CV-62) (top), and USS Midway (CV-41) moored beside each other Naval Station, Pearl Harbour, Hawaii, 23 August 1991. Midway was en route from Naval Station, Yokosuka to California, where she was decommissioned the following April, while Independence traveled to Japan to take over as the U.S. Navy’s forward-based aircraft carrier.

Click to big up 2830×1850. Photo by PH Omar Hasan, U.S. Navy. National Archives Identifier (NAID) 6478213

On the occasion of the homeport swap between the two carriers, the above meeting gives a good view of their respective but very different air wings.

Although roughly similar in overall size (for Indy, compared to for Midway), the older carrier was designed in the age of the famed “Sunday Punch” of a carrier wing made up of some 108 prop-driven aircraft– F6F Hellcats, TBM Avengers, and SBD Dauntless dive-bombers, or equivalents. With that, the hangar deck height was a couple feet lower than that of the Forrestal class and later supercarriers. This meant that the hangar was too short to allow for all maintenance tasks (primarily removal of ejection seats) for such tall birds as the F-14 Tomcat and S-3 Viking.

And it is reflected on the decks of the two flattops, with Indy’s crowded by at least 16 visible Tomcats, with their wings swept closed, as well as a trio of Vikings.

Meanwhile, Midway’s mass of F-18s– she carried three squadrons at the time rather than the traditional two and two more of Tomcats for other carriers not in her class– is in full display with no less than 30 early model Hornets on deck along with five A-6E Intruders and two EA-6B Prowlers. To make up for the lack of ASW aircraft, they could carry more SH-3H Sea Kings. She also carried an extra squadron of Intruders to make up for the increased CAP taskings on the F-18s. 

For the record, Midway’s last carrier air wing consisted of:

Compared to Indy’s CVW-14:

The more you know…

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