Naval Air: February 28, 2003


As many of the U.S. aircraft carriers that served during the 1991 Gulf War return to the area for another round with Iraq, the aircraft carried and how those carrier operate has changed considerably. In 1991, carriers used aircraft types (A-6 and A-7 bombers) that are now retired from service. Back then, they also carried S-3 anti-submarine aircraft and F-14 fighter-bombers, which are still around but on the way out. The F-18 (in several versions) has become the most common warplane on carriers, and will share deck space with the new F-35 within the decade. But most important is the change in weapons used by these aircraft. In 1991, only about twenty percent of the carrier warplanes (about fifty per carrier) could use smart bombs. Now only about ten percent of the warplanes on board cannot use smart bombs. In 1991, about nine percent of the bombs dropped were smart bombs. Now it's going to be 90 percent smart bombs, and one carrier will be able to take out as many targets per day as three carriers did in 1991. Moreover, carrier aircraft will fly fewer sorties, incur less wear and tear and generally be in better shape when they take off then they were in 1991. Quite a difference in only twelve years. 


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