Naval Air: May 30, 2002


The American aircraft carriers that provided air support Afghanistan are now returning home. The USS John C. Stennis spent 6.5 months at sea. The Stennis is the largest ship of a task force containing 10,000 sailors and Marines. The Stennnis air wing flew over 10,000 combat sorties, its aircraft spending over 54,000 hours in the air. Five hours per sortie is above average for naval aviation, and was a result of the long flight times for bombers flying from off the Pakistan coast to land locked Afghanistan. Some of the air wing aircraft were able to operate from Pakistani air bases, but there were still some 9,600 arrested aircraft landings. As a result of all this activity, the flight deck crews had only four days off during the entire cruise. One requirement that came though loud and clear was the need for smaller smart bombs. Most of the smart bomb kits are designed for 1,000 and 2,000 pound bombs. But the GPS JDAM smart bombs were so accurate that it became obvious that many targets could have been destroyed by 250 or 500 pound bombs. This would also have allowed the F-18s and F-14s to carry more bombs and take out more targets for the ground troops. Development of the smaller JDAMs has been speeded up as a result. Although the air force's heavy bombers dropped most of the bombs by weight, a lot of that was carpet bombing with unguided bombs. Some 80 percent of the smart bombs were dropped by naval warplanes. 


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