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Battle Group - Introduction

The CVBG is a combat formation of ships and aircraft which comprises a principal element of national power projection capability. It is the essential foundation of the ability to conduct operations as envisioned in the most recent edition of the strategic concept, "Forward... From the Sea." It includes capabilities sufficient to accomplish a variety of combat tasks in war, and it serves a wide variety of functions in situations short of war. Simply put, the mission in peacetime is to conduct forward presence operations to help shape the strategic environment by deterring conflict, building interoperability, and by responding, as necessary, to fast breaking crises with the demonstration and application of credible combat power.

The primary obiective in defining the CVBG capabilities and composition is to provide the combatant commanders with adequately balanced capabilities to deal with a variety of present and future threats. The objective is to train and equip forward deploying forces which are balanced, sustainable, flexible, and, most importantly, responsive to the requirements of the supported commanders and able to carry out tasking from the National Command Authority.

Tasks which are critical to the success of initial crisis response missions are assumed to be undertaken in non-permissive environments characterized by multiple threats including, but not limited to, advanced anti-ship missiles, third/fourth generation fighter/attack aircraft, advanced electromagnetic sensors and missile equipped surface combatants, jammers, modern cruise and attack submarines (both nuclear and diesel types)

The CVBG is intended to be a flexible naval force that can-operate in shallow, and narrow, waters or in the open ocean, during day and night, in all weather conditions, and under restricted Emissions Control (EMCON). The tasks enumerated in the subsequent sections define the capabilities necessary for fonard presence (including timely initial crisis response).

The Battle Group is led by an aircraft carrier and include an airwing and a small contingent of cruisers to act as carrier escorts. In addition to this Battle Force, it also included an Amphibious Group of ships to transport and support Marine Expeditionary Force amphibious operations. This Amphibious Ready Group will typically include an escort of three ships [destroyers or frigates], the composition of which changes on each Marine Expeditionary Force [MEF] deployment. The Battle Group is the largest operational unit of the US Navy. Each deployed Battle Group consists of a unique combination of ships.

A Carrier Battle Group is a highly balanced mix of ships and aircraft capable of conducting a multitude of missions including, strike operations, humanitarian assistance, sea control, power projection and more. Although the aircraft carrier is the centerpiece of the battle group its capabilities would be degraded without the support provided by the ships that constitute the battle group.

The development of the carrier battle group dates to the 1920's and came into its own during World War II. American use of the carrier battle group started in 1943 as the Essex and Independence-class vessels joined the fleet. These first carrier groups or task groups consisted of no more than four carriers. With the military draw down that followed World War II , the single carrier battle group was born. Although the single carrier reduced the number of ships, advances in technology allowed the carrier to become more flexible and carry more firepower than an entire World War II Task Group.

It is important to note that there really is no real definition of a battle group. Battle groups are formed and disestablished on an as needed basis, and one may be different from another. However, they all are comprised of similar types of ships. Typically a carrier battle group might have:

  • a carrier - The carrier provides a wide range of options to the U.S. government from simply showing the flag to attacks on airborne, afloat and ashore targets. Because carriers operate in international waters, its aircraft do not need to secure landing rights on foreign soil. These ships also engage in sustained operations in support of other forces.
  • two guided missile cruisers - multi-mission surface combatants. Equipped with Tomahawks for long-range strike capability.
  • a guided missile destroyer - multi-mission suface combatant, used primarily for anti-air warfare (AAW)
  • a destroyer - primarily for anti-submarine warfare (ASW)
  • a frigate - primarily for anti-submarine warfare (ASW)
  • two attack submarines - in a direct support role seeking out and destroying hostile surface ships and submarines
  • a combined ammunition, oiler, and supply ship - provides logistic support enabling the Navy's forward presence: on station, ready to respond

The Carrier Battle Group (CVBG) could be employed in a variety of roles, all of which would involve the gaining and maintenance of sea control:

  • Protection of economic and/or military shipping.
  • Protection of a Marine amphibious force while enroute to, and upon arrival in, an amphibious objective area.
  • Establishing a naval presence in support of national interests.

The Aircraft Carrier Battle Groups (CVBG) consist of a carrier, its embarked air wing, and various escorts -- cruisers, destroyers, frigates, attack submarines, and attached logistics ships. Each Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) comprises a large-deck amphibious assault ship, two to four amphibious ships [transport dock ship or dock landing ship], and an embarked Marine expeditionary unit (special operations capable), or MEU(SOC). Battle Groups and ARGs may operate independently as naval expeditionary task groups, or they may coalesce into a single naval expeditionary task force (1 CVBG + 1 ARG).

At any given time, three CVBGs and three ARGs are deployed and assigned to a numbered-fleet commander in an overseas area:

  • FIFTH Fleet - Southwest Asia
  • SIXTH Fleet - Mediterranean
  • SEVENTH Fleet - Western Pacific

A carrier homeported in Japan provides further full-time presence in the Western Pacific. The Navy deploys a CVBG and an ARG about three-fourths and four-fifths of the year, respectively, in the Mediterranean Sea; about three-fourths and one-half of the year, respectively, in the Indian Ocean; and on a nearly continuous basis in the western Pacific. During periods when neither a CVBG nor an ARG is present in a theater, one is located within a few days' transit time of the region.

In its 1993 Bottom-Up Review, DOD concluded a force of 10 aircraft carriers could meet the military's war-fighting requirements, but it retained 12 carriers (11 active carriers plus 1 deployable training carrier) to meet the larger peacetime forward presence requirements in the three principal overseas theaters. The May 1997 Report of the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) differed from the major regional conflict building blocks developed in the 1993 Bottom-Up Review. The FY 1999 budget funded 12 carrier battle groups (CVBGs), 11 Navy carrier air wings (50 fighter/attack aircraft each), 12 amphibious ready groups, 116 surface combatants, and 57 attack submarines.

Since the Bottom-Up Review in 1993, the Defense Department routinely categorized the aircraft carrier force structure as consisting of 11 active carriers and one operational reserve/training carrier. In response to Quadrennial Defense Review analyses and a six-month deployment in 1997 with an active air wing, DoD reevaluated the concept of employing the John F. Kennedy (CV-67) primarily as an operational reserve/training carrier. As a result, this carrier was fully integrated into the active fleet's deployment schedule, while still functioning as a reserve and training asset when not operating in forward areas.




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