Commander Naval Air Force U.S. Atlantic Fleet [COMNAVAIRLANT]
Commander Naval Air Force U.S. Atlantic Fleet [COMNAVAIRLANT] is the senior type command for all aviation assets used by the Atlantic Fleet. As the type command, it has provided operationally ready air squadrons and aircraft carriers to the fleet for more than 50 years. COMNAVAIRLANT ensures that Atlantic fleet squadrons and carrier crews are trained and their aircraft and ships are fit for action, backed up by a complex, relentless system of spare parts and maintenance that allows no compromise in safety or readiness.
The COMNAVAIRLANT staff is made up of 515 officer, enlisted, civilian and contractor personnel. Naval Air Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet is composed of more than 40,000 men and women who maintain and operate six aircraft carriers, 70 aircraft squadrons and approximately 1,400 aircraft. It provides combat-ready air forces to fleet commanders operating in areas ranging from the North Pole to the Antarctic and from the East Coast of the United States to the Indian Ocean. The organizational structure of COMNAVAIRLANT includes one functional wing commander and nine type wings commanders who are individually responsible for major categories of aircraft squadrons. There are also seven carrier battle group commanders who, although not under operational control of COMNAVAIRLANT, work very closely with our staff. They are responsible for the carrier, the embarked airwing and the cruisers that make up the battle group. The carrier airwing commander is responsible for a number of squadrons whose missions include attack, fighter, patrol, reconnaissance, anti-submarine warfare, electronic warfare and logistic support The nucleus of the naval battle group is the aircraft carrier. In the Atlantic Fleet, COMNAVAIRLANT has six carriers assigned to carry out the mission of CINCLANTFLT and other commanders. They include USS ENTERPRISE (CVN 65), USS JOHN F. KENNEDY (CV 67), USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER (CVN 69), USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT (CVN 71), USS GEORGE WASHINGTON (CVN 73) and USS Harry S Truman (CVN 75). One or two of these carriers are usually deployed with the U.S. Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean Sea or to the Persian Gulf in support of U.S. Central Command. When not deployed or undergoing periodic maintenance/overhaul, or refresher training, these ships operate with U.S. Second Fleet in the Western Atlantic.
COMNAVAIRLANT was formed in Norfolk in January 1943 under the flag of Rear Admiral Alva D. Bernhard. The new command was to take the place of three older organizations: Commander Carriers, Atlantic Fleet; Carrier Replacement Squadron, Atlantic Fleet; and Fleet Air Wings, Atlantic. A similar reorganization had produced AirLant's West Coast counterpart, Commander Air Force, Pacific Fleet, three months earlier. Besides the logistics, maintenance and training duties of a type command, COMNAVAIRLANT was ordered to direct all Atlantic air combat operations not assigned to specific task forces - a duty that amounted to prosecuting the war against the U-boats. COMNAVAIRLANT helped turn the tide almost immediately. In the summer months, the command recorded nine U-boats sunk by patrol squadrons off France, plus another 16 by the escort carrier hunter-killer groups prowling the sea lanes and escorting the convoys.
From the date of its inception, COMNAVAIRLANT contributed heavily to war in the Pacific. Per the official history, "All new construction carriers in the Navy were trained by COMNAVAIRLANT and many escort carriers built on the West Coast were ferried to the East Coast for training and subsequent deployment to the Pacific." In 1944, its year of peak production, COMNAVAIRLANT deployed 16 carriers, 20 carrier air groups, 67 carrier-based squadrons, 21 patrol squadrons and 18 aviation units to the Pacific.
On 30 July 1957, the command's title changed to Naval Air Force, Atlantic Fleet. Over the years, the men and planes prepared by AIRLANT have responded to brushfire wars and political disturbances in Asia, Latin America, Africa, Europe and the Persian Gulf.