Carrier Air Wing EIGHT (CVW 8)
The task of Carrier Air Wing EIGHT (CVW-8) is to conduct offensive air operations against both land and sea targets, and provide for Carrier Battle Group (CVBG) defense and sustain air operations in support of other forces as directed. Embarked in USS ENTERPRISE (CVN 65), CVW-8 employs a mix of sophisticated aircraft capable of air warfare, strike warfare, antisubmarine warfare and electronic warfare.
The air wing normally consists of ten squadrons. Fighter Squadrons FOURTEEN and FORTY-ONE (VF-14/VF-41) provide the world's most lethal air-to-air capability with the F-14A Tomcat. The strike/fighter role is fulfilled by Strike Fighter Squadrons FIFTEEN and EIGHTY-SEVEN (VFA-15/VFA-87) flying the F/A-18C Hornet. Airborne early warning and airborne command and control is the responsibility of Carrier Early Warning Squadron ONE TWENTY-FOUR (VAW-124) and the multi-mission E-2C Hawkeye. The complex, dynamic realm of antisubmarine warfare is the domain of Sea Control Squadron TWENTY-FOUR (VS-24) flying the S-3B Viking and Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron THREE (HS-3) flying the SH-60F/HH-60H Seahawk helicopter. Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron ONE HUNDRED FORTY-ONE (VAQ-141) flies the EA-6B Prowler, an aircraft specifically designed to enhance the Navy's capabilities and survivability in today's electronically-oriented combat environment.
CVW-8 first operated on June 1, 1943 at NAS Norfolk, VA and was assigned to USS INTREPID (CV-11). Since then CVW-8 has been in and out of commission twice, first in 1945 following World War II and then again in 1949. Recommissioned in April 1951, CVW-8 has been operational since that date. Since World War II, CVW-8 has been assigned to the Atlantic Fleet making numerous deployments with both the SECOND and SIXTH Fleets, as well as three deployments with FIRST and SEVENTH Fleets. The air wing has been embarked in USS INTREPID, USS BUNKER HILL, USS CORAL SEA, USS LAKE CHAMPLAIN, USS FORRESTAL, USS SHANGRI-LA, USS AMERICA, USS CARL VINSON, USS NIMITZ, USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN, USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT, USS JOHN F. KENNEDY, and USS ENTERPRISE.
During World War II, CVW-8 distinguished itself in combat in the Pacific Fleet winning five Battle Stars and the Presidential Unit Citation for heroic combat action while embarked in BUNKER HILL. CVW-8 was the first carrier air wing composed of reserve squadrons to transition from propeller driven aircraft to jets. Jet transition was completed in 1951. In 1959, CVW-8 aircraft provided the U. S. Navy aerial demonstration to celebrate the opening of the Saint Lawrence Seaway.
Accumulating over 49,000 flight hours and 20,000 carrier arrested landings without an accident while deployed in 1960-1961 marked the beginning of CVW-8's return to the Pacific Fleet. In 1970, while embarked in SHANGRI-LA, the air wing won a Meritorious Unit Commendation for outstanding combat operations in Southeast Asia while attached to Task Force 77. Following a Mediterranean Cruise in 1971 onboard AMERICA, CVW-8 returned to the Western Pacific for combat operations from June 1972 to March 1973. After extended deployed Mediterranean operations with AMERICA in January 1974, CVW-8 was selected to embark in NIMITZ for its maiden deployment to Northern Europe in June 1975.
In June 1976, CVW-8 embarked again in NIMITZ. Following celebrations of the United States Bicentennial in Norfolk, VA, the NIMITZ/CVW-8 team completed a deployment to the Mediterranean. In mid-1977 CVW-8 was back on NIMITZ for Western Atlantic and Caribbean operations followed by the second NIMITZ/CVW-8 Mediterranean deployment. One year later CVW-8 re-embarked in NIMITZ for Caribbean operations followed by a third NIMITZ/CVW-8 Mediterranean deployment in October 1979.
In response to the Iranian hostage crisis and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the NIMITZ/CVW-8 Team left Naples, Italy in January 1980 and sailed around the Cape of Good Hope into the Indian Ocean. Established at Gonzo Station, the NIMITZ/CVW-8 team supported the hostage rescue attempt while remaining at-sea for more than 140 consecutive days. Returning to the United States in May 1980, CVW-8 embarked once again onboard NIMITZ for the North Atlantic NATO exercise "TEAMWORK 80" from August to November 1980.
CVW-8 again embarked in USS NIMITZ for Caribbean operations in April 1981, followed by another SIXTH Fleet Mediterranean deployment. It was during this deployment that two CVW-8 F-14s from Fighter Squadron FORTY-ONE engaged and destroyed two Libyan SU-22 aircraft following an unprovoked Libyan air-to-air missile engagement over the international waters of the Gulf of Sidra.
Returning to Norfolk, VA, CVW-8 commenced plans to embark in the Navy's newest NIMITZ-class carrier, USS CARL VINSON for its maiden voyage to the Caribbean in March 1982. CVW-8 sustained its tradition of excellence while establishing benchmarks for shakedown sortie efficiency and mission performance.
In June 1982, CVW-8 squadrons returned to NIMITZ for Carrier Refresher Training followed by Caribbean operations. From November 1982 to May 1983 the NIMITZ/CVW-8 Team again deployed with the SIXTH Fleet for extended Mediterranean operations including support for the multi-national force off Beirut, Lebanon.
CVW-8 participated in numerous training evolutions from May 1983 to October 1985 during NIMITZ's extended overhaul. In March 1985, CVW-8 deployed to the Mediterranean and participated in several exercises including DISTANT HAMMER, POOP DECK, and BRIGHT STAR. CVW-8 was on station off the coast of Beirut, Lebanon for sixty-nine days during the TWA hijacking. The prompt response and immediate preparation for contingency strikes coerced the Iranian backed terrorists into releasing hostages after 17 days of captivity. CVW-8 squadrons returned to their respective bases in October following the seven month deployment.
In 1986 CVW-8 became the first east coast air wing to transition under the Senior Air Wing Commander/Super CAG concept. On August 15, CVW-8 set sail on a deployment to the North Atlantic Ocean for Battle Group Training and NATO exercise. This two-month deployment took NIMITZ and CVW-8 above the Arctic Circle and into Vestfjord, Norway, where CVW-8 participated in NATO Exercise NORTHERN WEDDING/NORTHERN ENGAGEMENT. On December 30, 1986, CVW-8 and NIMITZ set sail for the Mediterranean Sea, for what was to be their last deployment as a unit. At the end of this deployment, NIMITZ sailed around the tip of South America and arrived at San Diego, CA in June 1987 where CVW-8 and its squadrons bid a last farewell before returning to their respective homeports.
In August 1988, CVW-8 embarked on THEODORE ROOSEVELT (CVN-71) for TEAMWORK 88, the largest multi-national exercise of the decade, cruising to the North Atlantic with calls in Vestfjord, Norway and Wilhelmshaven, West Germany. December 1988 saw CVW-8 embarked in CVN-71 for yet another Mediterranean deployment, during which it participated in 10 NATO exercises including DRAGON HAMMER, NATIONAL WEEK, and JUNIPER STALLION. CVW-8 distinguished itself by flying over 22,000 mishap free hours and completing over 10,000 sorties during the deployment.
With the August 2, 1990 invasion of Kuwait by Iraqi armor and infantry forces, CVW-8 squadrons rapidly prepared for possible combat operations. In four short months, intense training through weekly practice strikes, and the successful completion of a completely "rescripted" and never before attempted "FLEETEX" placed the THEODORE ROOSEVELT/CVW-8 team at the forefront of tactical carrier aviation. On December 28, CVW-8 again embarked in THEODORE ROOSEVELT as they proceeded to join 5 other U.S. Carrier Battle Groups, operating under Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command. The gathering of naval forces for OPERATION DESERT STORM was the largest display of sea power since World War II.
Returning from deployment in June 1991, CVW-8 enjoyed a brief standdown prior to commencing a lengthy 18 month turnaround. CVW-8 completed 1991 by providing opposition forces based in Puerto Rico for other Carrier/Air Wing exercises. In July 1992, CVW-8 was the first air wing to receive a Marine Corps F/A-18C squadron. VMFA-312 Checkerboards started carrier qualification in June 1992 and July 1992 and joined CVW-8 on 1 August 1992. In December 1992, the USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT/CVW-8 team embarked for the very first time in aviation history as a Special Marine Air/Ground Task Force (SPMAGTF).
In February 1996, CVW-8 embarked aboard JOHN C. STENNIS for a Joint Fleet Exercise, followed by deployed operations onboard JOHN F. KENNEDY in the North Atlantic and visits to Dublin, Ireland and Portsmouth, England. In April 1997, CVW-8 embarked onboard JOHN F. KENNEDY for JTG 97-2 Mediterranean/Persian Gulf Deployment. The deployment included many fine ports including Palma, Corfu, Rhodes, Taragona, Haifa and Benidorm. During the deployment CVW-8 participated in many exercises/detachments including INFINITE ACCLAIM, BEACON FLASH and INVITEX. During INVITEX, the air wing completed over 350 sorties including 203 sorties in one day. It also included real world involvement over Bosnia in DELIBERATE GUARD and over Iraq in SOUTHERN WATCH. The JTG 97-2 deployment was completed in October 1997.
The air wing completed a deployment onboard USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT in September 1999. The Mediterranean Sea/Arabian Gulf deployment included combat operations in ALLIED FORCE over Kosovo and SOUTHERN WATCH over the no-fly zone in Iraq. During Allied Force, CVW-8 completed 3,400 combat missions, logged in excess of 12,000 flight hours and delivered 800 tons of ordnance on military targets throughout the Federal Republic Of Yugoslavia.
Approximately 30 percent of the naval aircraft involved in the conflict came from Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8, flying off the deck of Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). TR left Norfolk, Va., on 26 March for a planned deployment to the Arabian Gulf; 10 days later, her embarked squadrons were putting steel on target in Yugoslavia. Between 6 April and 9 June, CVW-8 aircraft flew 4,270 total sorties and 3,055 combat sorties--with zero losses--executing the most precise air campaign in history, resulting in the lowest levels of collateral damage ever. These sorties involved essential combat support missions, such as close air support, battlefield airborne interdiction, electronic support and airborne battlefield command and control, as well as strike missions. The Hornets, Prowlers and F-14 Tomcats of CVW-8 destroyed or damaged a total of 447 tactical targets and 88 fixed targets.
Although the results were impressive, the apportionment of missions to CVW-8 within the air campaign fell far short of the battle group's actual capacity to conduct sustained combat operations. Despite this, the squadrons of CVW-8 provided a deadly combination of precision and lethality, and proved an essential part of Allied Force strike operations. Their success validated the naval strike warfare concept of operations, developed and continually refined through the air wing training process at the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center. One particular alpha strike, against the Podgorica airfield, was planned and executed within eight hours--a dramatic testament to the training, responsiveness, professionalism and skill of Navy aviation.
From 16 September to 05 October 2000 the aircraft of CVW-8 were deployed on the USS ENTERPRISE (CVN 65). This was the TESTA II/III training for their work-up period, the first look at the USS ENTERPRISE, and their first chance to see their new "home" for the cruise in April of 2001. TESTA II/III involved the entire Air Wing Eight contingent of squadrons. VF-41 and VF-14 are the F-14 Tomcat squadrons, and VFA-15 and VFA-87 are the F-18 Hornet squadrons. VAW-124 is the E-2 squadron, and VS-24 is the S-3 Viking squadron. HS-3 supplies the SH-60 helicopters, the Shadowhawks of VAQ-141 the EA-6B, and VRC-40 supplied the C-2. This was the Air Wing's first attempt to work together as an entire group, and the Air Wing's first look at working together with the USS ENTERPRISE. TESTA II/III incorporated carrier qualifications for the Air Wing aircrew, cyclic operations for aircrew and ship's company, and battle group integration with the ENTERPRISE.
The January 2001 COMPTUEX A was another milestone in the Inter-Deployment Training Cycle [IDTC] and required the entire contingent of CVW-8 to embark Enterprise. The carrier left Norfolk, transited the eastern coast of Florida, and operated in the Gulf of Mexico. The Air Wing conducted simulated strikes into the Avon Park and Eglin range complexes, refined rescue operations and conducted various weapons exercises.
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