Tag Archives: USS Midway

35 Years Ago: WWII Meets Cold War

A beautiful port bow view of the aircraft carrier USS Midway (CV-41, ex-CVB/CVA-41) “somewhere in the Philipine Sea” as she is underway with Carrier Air Wing 5 (CARAIRWING FIVE) embarked, early January 1987.

Laid down on 27 October 1943 at Newport News as the lead ship in a class designed to carry a whopping 137 aircraft to fight the Empire of Japan, Midway was a week and a day too late for her intended task, commissioned on 10 September 1945.

Much modified with an enclosed bow and an angled flight deck in a three-year conversion in the mid-1950s, she would continue to operate in the jet era, largely with CVW-5 embarked. Midway took CVW-5 to Vietnam twice (April 16, 1971 – November 6, 1971 and September 11, 1973 – October 5, 1973) then continued to operate the wing, forward deployed to Naval Air Facility Atsugi, until August 1991.

Notably, her 1987 deployment was the first for Midway to carry the F/A-18A/B Hornet. VF-151 of CVW-5 had, on 25 March 1986, conducted the final carrier launching of a Navy fleet F-4S Phantom II off the carrier during flight operations in the East China Sea, closing out an era.

She carried three F-18 Hornet squadrons, as she was unable to operate F-14s for an extended amount of time and the F-4 had been retired.

Her Hornet squadrons included VFA-195 (Dambusters,) VFA-151 (Vigilantes) and VFA-192 (Golden Dragons) between 1986 and 1991. NARA DN-ST-93-01289 CVW-5

Decommissioned 11 April 1992– only five years after the above image– Midway is currently the largest naval museum ship in the world, and the only aircraft carrier commissoned after WWII that is preserved and open to the public. With all of the Navy’s conventional flattops now consigned to the scrappers, she will likley hold on to both of those titles.

Meanwhile, CVW-5 is still around and still in Japan, attached to forward-deployed Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 5 and flagship USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76)— and yes, they still fly Hornets, albeit of the Super type.

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…