Carrier Air Wing ELEVEN
Carrier Air Wing 11 (CVW-11) has an impressive record dating back to October 1942. CVW-11's distinguished combat history places it high among the fighting units of the United States Navy.
Commissioned on Navy Day, 1942, CVW-11 recorded a significant number of firsts in attaining its place as one of the Navy's top fighting organizations. In June 1943, the pilots of CVW-11 conducted the first daylight raids during fighting in the Solomon Islands and New Georgia operations of World War II. They also took part in air operations over Leyte Gulf, Indochina, Formosa, and the China Mainland. For the above operations, CVW-11 was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.
During the Korean conflict, CVW-11 was the first naval Air Wing to shoot down MIG jet fighters. The Air Wing was instrumental in keeping the Pusan Perimeter from collapsing during the early phases of the conflict, and participated in other significant actions such as the Inchon invasion, the Wonson landing and the highly successful movement from the Chosin Reservoir. With the addition of the RA-5C Vigilante, A-6A Intruder, and E-2 Hawkeye, CVW-11 deployed onboard USS KITTY HAWK (CV 63) to the SEVENTH Fleet in October 1965 with the most modern, complex, strike group ever assembled, and evaluated under wartime conditions. Between December 1965 and May 1966, the Air Wing conducted air strikes against targets in North and South Vietnam and delivered more ordnance than any other Air Wing. The Navy Unit Commendation was awarded to KITTY HAWK and CVW-11 in November 1966 for their superior performance. Sustained combat operations during a cruise from December 1966 to May 1967 earned the battle group another Navy Unit Commendation in August 1967.
KITTY HAWK and CVW-11 became the first battle group to receive the Presidential Unit Commendation for performance during the Vietnam Conflict. The Citation was approved for operations conducted from December 1966 through June 1968 as part of SEVENTH Fleet. CVW-11 set numerous records for the Vietnam conflict, foremost of which was a 61-day line period, longest for that war. Prior to the limited bombing announcement, CVW-11 ranged the length of North Vietnam, striking enemy power plants, rail yards, and lines of transportation and communications. The Air Wing’s sustained air support was instrumental in the defense of Khe Sanh.
CVW-11 broke all previous records for combat sorties flown and ordnance delivered during its sixth Western Pacific deployment from November 1970 to July 1971. This record was short lived, however, and the Air Wing broke its own record again during its seventh Vietnam cruise. Deployed early due to the 1972 communist offensive, KITTY HAWK and CVW-11 deployed with 107 aircraft to form the world’s largest Air Wing under the new CV concept. This new concept, including tactical aircraft and anti-submarine aircraft on the same carrier, was implemented and deployed to the Western Pacific in November 1973. This cruise was highlighted by an air power demonstration for the Shah of Iran and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff while operating in the Indian Ocean. The first CV deployment of a West Coast carrier demonstrated the flexibility of simultaneous Tactical Air and Anti-Submarine Warfare employment.
In July 1974, KITTY HAWK and CVW-11 deployed for their first non-combat cruise in nine years, and made two more deployments to the Western Pacific in 1975 and 1977. Prior to 1977, CVW-11 was equipped with what were then the Navy's newest aircraft: the F-14 Tomcat, S-3 Viking, the A-6E version of the Intruder, and the E-2C version of the Hawkeye. In 1979 and again in 1981, CVW-11 deployed to the Mediterranean onboard USS AMERICA (CV 66). The Air Wing shifted carriers again, and onboard the USS ENTERPRISE (CVN 65), deployed four times to the Western Pacific from 1982 to 1990. The high points of the deployments include Fleet Exercise 84, a three-carrier operation in the Northern Pacific, and a world cruise in 1986 which compiled 23,000 flight hours and 9,000 arrested landings while conducting operations in the Western Pacific, Indian Ocean, Red Sea, Mediterranean Sea, and Atlantic Ocean.
On April 18, 1988, while deployed in the North Arabian Sea, CVW-11, in coordination with Battle Group FOXTROT units, conducted a major strike against Iranian naval warships and facilities in the Persian Gulf. The attacks, launched in retaliation for Iranian mining of international waters and the subsequent damage to USS SAMUEL B. ROBERTS (FFG 58), were highly successful. CVW-11 repelled a Boghammer fast attack boat raid on the Mubarak Oil Platform, sunk the Iranian frigate Sahand, and severely damaged the frigate Sabalan. CVW-11 was subsequently awarded the Joint Meritorious Unit Award for its actions.
CVW-11 made its final cruise aboard ENTERPRISE from September 1989 to March 1990. Highlights of the world cruise included exercises PACEX, ANNUALEX 89 and VALIANT BLITZ 90, comprised of the largest assemblage of U.S. naval air and sea power since World War II. Coordinated operations involved a three-carrier battle group comprised of ENTERPRISE, USS CARL VINSON (CVN 70), and USS CONSTELLATION (CV 64). Two battle forces, including the carriers ENTERPRISE and CARL VINSON, and the battleships USS NEW JERSEY (BB 62) and USS MISSOURI (BB 63), operated in conjunction with the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force, Republic of Korea Navy and Air Force, U.S. Air Force and U.S. Marine Corps to provide highly successful joint training.
In December 1989, CVW-11 and Battle Group FOXTROT joined forces with USS MIDWAY (CV 41) and Battle Group ALPHA near Manila Bay. Their mission was to support Operation CLASSIC RESOLVE, conducting contingency operations, if necessary, to support U.S. interests following the Philippine coup attempt. CVW-11 returned home through the Arabian Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, leaving its ship, the “Big E", in Norfolk, Virginia for refueling.
CVW-11 underwent major changes in 1990. A-7Es were replaced by F/A-18 Hornets and SH-3s were replaced with SH-60 Sea Hawks specially configured for combat search and rescue. The E-2C and the A-6E underwent major upgrades. The Air Wing took the Navy's newest carrier, the USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN (CVN 72), on its maiden voyage, riding it around South America enroute to its new homeport in Alameda, California.
The outbreak of war in Iraq required the Air Wing’s training schedule to be greatly compressed for an early deployment. In May 1991, CVW-11 deployed to the Arabian Gulf. Enroute, ABRAHAM LINCOLN stopped to support Operation FIERY VIGIL, the evacuation of U.S. dependents from Subic Bay during the Mount Pinatubo eruptions in the Philippines. Battle Group FOXTROT became the first carrier battle group to operate in the Gulf during the summer months, enduring the extreme heat of the region and reduced visibility due to Kuwaiti oil fires. During the post-war period, CVW-11 established bonds of friendship and military interoperability with the Gulf Coast nations and multinational coalitions which stabilized this critical region and benefited the United States’ interest for years to come.
CVW-11 completed two more Arabian Gulf Deployments onboard ABRAHAM LINCOLN, and flew thousands of missions into Iraq in support of Operation SOUTHERN WATCH. Upon departure from the Gulf, it conducted a 24-hour notice high-speed transit to the coast of Somalia and provided air support to the United Nations during Operation RESTORE HOPE, and remained on station until November 1993.
Upon completion of its 1995 cruise on ABRAHAM LINCOLN, CVW-11 was reunited with its first carrier, KITTY HAWK. During a deployment to the Arabian Gulf, the Air Wing provided support to Operation SOUTHERN WATCH, supported United Nations Security Council Resolution 986 - Oil For Food, and conducted bilateral operations with Kuwait and Pakistan.
On 13 May 1997, CVW-11 was reassigned to Commander, Carrier Strike Group THREE and CARL VINSON. The staff headquarters was moved from Naval Air Station (NAS) North Island to NAS Lemoore, California as part of the Base Realignment and Closure process. In November 1998, the Air Wing embarked for another deployment onboard CARL VINSON, returning safely home in May 1999. Another CARL VINSON deployment followed in July 2001, with flight operations originally untaken in support of Operation SOUTHERN WATCH. Following the terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001, CVW-11 answered the country's call. Arriving on-scene in the Arabian Sea, aircraft from CVW-11 were among the first to launch strikes against Taliban and Al-Qaeda forces during Operation ENDURING FREEDOM.
After returning home, CVW-11 was reassigned to Cruiser-Destroyer Group FIVE and USS NIMITZ (CVN 68) in January 2002. The F-14 Tomcat was retired from the Air Wing’s inventory, replaced by F/A-18E/F Super Hornets from the Black Aces of VFA-41 and the Tophatters of VFA-14. CVW-11 deployed onboard NIMITZ in March 2003 in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM as only the second Air Wing to deploy with FA-18E/F Super Hornets. NIMITZ remained on-station until September before returning to homeport in November 2003.
Upon returning from cruise, the Air Wing’s complement changed once again. The Warhawks of VFA-97 were replaced by a Marine squadron, the Red Devils of VMFA-232. The Dragonfires of VS-29, flying the venerable S-3B Viking, were decommissioned. CVW-11 was among the first to prove the new “all-Hornet” Air Wing-of-the-future concept in practice during a successful inter-deployment training period that included flight deck certification of USS RONALD REAGAN (CVN 76) during her around the horn maiden voyage from Norfolk, Virginia to her new homeport in San Diego, California.
In May 2005 CVW-11, deployed onboard NIMITZ to the Western Pacific and Persian Gulf, participating in combat operations in support of Operations IRAQI FREEDOM (OIF) and ENDURING FREEDOM (OEF), and multinational exercises with Japan, Egypt, and India until November 2005.
In 2006, CVW-11 participated in three major training exercises, Trident Fury hosted by the Canadian Armed Forces, an international exercise hosted by the Scottish with the Royal Air Force, and Operation NORTHERN EDGE in Alaska. The Air Wing spread diplomacy back home with their participation in the San Diego Sea and Air Parade, as well as the San Francisco Fleet Week. The NIMITZ battle group finished the year with the completion of Composite Training Unit Exercise, ensuring that the Air Wing was emergency surge capable.
In 2007, as part of Joint Task Force 58, CVW-11 supported Operation IRAQI FREEDOM and ENDURING FREEDOM in the Arabian Gulf from May 23 to July 21. While in the FIFTH Fleet area of operations, the Air Wing launched more than 2,653 sorties totaling more than 8,240 flight hours, including 835 sorties and 4,697 flight hours in direct support of land-based combat forces. The Super Hornets of VFA-41 and VFA-14 and the Hornets of VFA-81 and VMFA-232 flew over 350 OIF/OEF Close Air Support sorties respectively. The Strike Fighter aircraft of CVW-11 provided direct support to the coalition forces on the ground through multiple shows of force, keeping the heads of insurgents down and allowing the troops to move more freely through insurgent problem areas. At the same time, VAQ-135 provided 34 Electronic Attack sorties while HS 6, HSL 49, and HSL 37 flew 30 OIF support missions in defense of the Iraqi maritime petroleum infrastructure. During the deployment, CVW-11 carried out U.S. diplomacy with port visits throughout the Western Pacific and Arabian Gulf, including Hawaii, Dubai,
Hong Kong, Singapore, and for the first-time ever Chennai, India. CVW-11 finished the year with a Sustainment Exercise from 3 December to 14 December, ensuring that the Air Wing was surge capable.
In 2008, CVW-11 started the year off with a surge cruise to the Western Pacific, where CVW-11 participated in the two major multi-national training exercises. The first was FOAL EAGLE off the coast of South Korea, and the second was VALIANT SHIELD off the coast of Guam. During the deployment, CVW-11 carried out U.S.
diplomacy with port visits throughout the Western Pacific, including Hawaii, Hong Kong, Singapore, Guam, and Sasabo, Japan. CVW-11 finished the year with the start of their Inter-Deployment Training Cycle with Strike Fighter Advanced Readiness Program, followed by Tailored Ship’s Training Availability, Air Wing Fallon, Composite Training Unit Exercise, and Joint Task Force Exercise in preparation for their upcoming Western Pacific deployment in the Summer of 2009.
In the summer of 2009, CVW-11 then embarked on an extended Western Pacific deployment in direct support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, flying over 2,623 combat sorties and 15,000 flight hours, while boasting a 99.4 sortie completion rate. CVW-11 embarked on another extended Western Pacific deployment in the spring of 2013 in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, flying over 9,777 sorties, of which 1,374 were combat sorties in direct support of ground troops in Afghanistan. The Air Wing also participated in contingency operations in the Red Sea in response to the Syrian chemical weapons crisis.
Following an extensive maintenance phase, CVW-11 returned to conduct highly successful combat operations in the summer of 2017, employing 300,000 pounds of ordnance against Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria, before returning home in December 2017.
CVW-11 is currently comprised of eight squadrons and one detachment. NAS Lemoore is home to the Black Knights of VFA-154 flying F/A-18F Super Hornets and the Blue Diamonds of VFA-146 flying F/A-18E Super Hornets. Stationed at NAS Oceana, Virginia, are the Tomcatters of VFA-31 flying F/A-18E Super Hornets and the Golden Warriors of VFA-87 flying F/A-18E Super Hornets. Stationed at NAS Whidbey Island, Washington, are the Gray Wolves of VAQ-142 with EA-18G Electronic Attack aircraft. Naval Base Ventura County, Point Mugu, California, is home to the Liberty Bells of VAW-115 and its E-2D Airborne Early Warning aircraft. NAS North Island, California is home to the world famous Wolf Pack of HSM-75 with MH-60R helicopters, the Eightballers of HSC-8 with SH-60F and MH-60S helicopters, and the Providers of VRC-30 with C-2A cargo planes.
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