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USN Air Group

Discussions on all aspects of the United States of America during the Inter-War era and Second World War.
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USN Air Group

Postby Pips on 10 Nov 2008 22:21

Where did the Air Department fit in to the Air Group structure - with especial focus on early war years eg 1942/3? Was it's role more than just organisation of flight routines and deck control? What was the ranking officer of the Air Department? Indeed was it part of the Air Group or part of the Carrier complement?

And who was the senior... the CAG or the Air Department?

I guess what I'm after are the lines of command within and between the two groups.
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Re: USN Air Group

Postby Takao on 11 Nov 2008 21:55

The Air Department and the Air Group are seperate entities. The Air Department are members of an aircraft carrier's crew, while the Air Group is not. The Air Department was responible for not only flight routines and deck control, but also anything pertaining to the movement and operation of aircraft. Elements such as AvGas and the carrier's eleveators fell under the Air Department
http://www.cv6.org/ship/logs/ops/ops_chap_13.htm
http://www.cv6.org/ship/logs/ops/ops_chap_16.htm
This page shows how the Air Officer aka "Air Boss" and CAG prepare for the embarkation of the Air Group.
http://www.cv6.org/ship/logs/ops/ops_chap_20.htm


The ranking officer of the Air Department would be the Air Officer, today's "Air Boss"(I'm not sure if that term was in use during WW2 or not). The Air Officer was usually either a Commander or a Lieutenant Commander. The CAG was also, usually either a Commander or a Lieutenant Commander.

I'm not sure what you mean with
"And who was the senior... the CAG or the Air Department?"

The Air Officer would be responsible for the movement of planes while they were aboard ship and in the immediate vicinity, today it is out to 5 miles from the carrier.
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Re: USN Air Group

Postby Pips on 12 Nov 2008 04:10

I'm not sure what you mean with
"And who was the senior... the CAG or the Air Department?"
The Air Officer would be responsible for the movement of planes while they were aboard ship and in the immediate vicinity, today it is out to 5 miles from the carrier.


I've been reading (again) Lundstrom's superb 'The First Team". An issue that has stood out this time round is the various relationships between Air Group's and Air Department's. For example on CV-6 there was constant friction between the Air Department and the Air Group - much of it very niggly and petty on the part of the Air Department commander. One example was that the AD required that VF-6 fly 'inner patrols' (which the pilots hated, preferring outer patrols) and VS-6 or VB-6 flying the outer patrols. The CAG could not alter such a requirement.

So the question relates to why the Air Department commander could instruct the Air Group Commander in the conduct of a mission? Surely that would be the perogative ot the CAG?
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Re: USN Air Group

Postby Takao on 20 Dec 2008 05:03

Greetings Pips, sorry it has taken so long to respond, but I have been unable to find any specific information only general
knowledge type material.

It has been awhile since I read "The First Team". Could you give me a chapter to use for reference.

First off, The Air Department did not instruct the CAG in the conduct of a mission. I think you are
confusing a CAP patrol with a strike mission, it is not. The CAG was to coordinate a strike against an
enemy target. The Air Department, via the fighter directors, was responsible for the defense of the
carrier. Thus, they are the ones issuing the orders to the CAP.

This is a very reasonable system. The CAP pilots' situational awareness was limited to their immediate
vicinity. Not to mention the fact that any CAG would have to divide his time between flying, fighting, and
coordination of all CAP patrols. While the Fighter Director could focus all his attention to plotting
incoming enemy raids and then coordinating the CAP to intercept these raids. The Japanese found out how
poorly the CAP functions when left to their own devices. Once an intercept was made, the CAP patrols
tended to leave their assigned sectors and head to the area of intercept. This would leave the Japanese
vulnerable to attacks from multiple directions. A good example is the battle of Midway, when the attack of
1010-1020 hit them from three directions, East, North-Northeast, and Southwest. The Japanese CAP focused
on the first sighted strike of VF-3/VT-3 coming in from the East. This allowed the dive bombers of VB-3
approaching from the Northeast and VB-6 & VS-6 coming in from the Southwest to carry out the attacks
almost unmolested.

As for the dissension between the pilots and Air Department aboard the USS Enterprise, I would say it was
the pilots who were being "very niggly and petty" and not the Air Department. While the pilots may have
hated flying the inner patrols, it is not tactically sound to have them flying the outer patrols. Here is
why. By having the bombers on the outer patrol, this allows them to detect incoming enemy aircraft and
give warning to the carrier. Thus, allowing the Inner patrol of fighters the greatest amount of time to
achieve a favorable intercept position. Now, if the positions were reversed. The fighters would be on the
Outer patrol and detect incoming enemy planes. However, if the fighters are not in a position to make an
intercept, then the carriers best defense has just been wasted. Then, all the carrier had to rely on was
the slower and ungainly bombers to attempt an intercept. Not a very promising situation indeed. So, by
having the bombers on the outer patrol you maximize the chances that the fighters on the inner patrol will
make a successful intercept.


Off-hand, I would say the inner and outer patrols would fall under the command of the fighter director
officer. I know that the USS Yorktown, during pre-WW2 Fleet Problems, had kept her fighters on the "Inner"
patrol and her other aircraft on the "Outer" patrol. So, this may have been standard practice in both the pre- and early war years, before radar had matured enough to be effectively used by the Fighter Director Officer.
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Re: USN Air Group

Postby Michael Emrys on 23 Dec 2008 21:25

Takao, sometime after the middle of the war, carriers began carrying two fighter squadrons or very much enlarged single squadrons. Did the practice of using bombers on outer CAP patrol cease at that time? And I wonder how much improved radar and CIC might have impacted the practice.

Michael
Incoming fire has the right of way.
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