Bryan Clark, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic & Budgetary Assessments, discusses how the Navy can improve carrier air wing composition for future conflicts.
The Navy’s carrier air wings have been around since the 1930s, but because of the 21st century’s changing battlefields, they’re due for an update. Bryan Clark, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic & Budgetary Assessments, says that the Navy needs to change carrier wings’ composition to properly modernize them. “Right now, the carrier air wing is almost entirely composed of multi‑mission aircraft with relatively short range that were designed for the peacetime period that we had after the Cold War,” Clark said. “…And instead of evolving as we normally would as we met the current period of great power competition… we need to think about transforming it. We need to get to a longer-range air wing, and maybe aircraft that have more specialization to deal with the kind of threats they are facing today.” Clark says that changing naval wings to include more unmanned aircraft will have many benefits over the current structure. “There are a couple benefits of unmanned aircraft that we found in the course of the study. One is that obviously they can go for a longer period of time than one with a human piloting it. It can also reduce the number of aircraft you have to buy overall. This is a big concern for the Defense Department right now because of budget constraints, and also the readiness crisis we are facing right now in naval aviation,” Clark told Government Matters. “Each aircraft is costing more and more to maintain. If you can reduce the number of aircraft you have to buy overall, it will allow you to reduce your costs.”