Naval Air: June 13, 2004


Whats the rule of thumb for the number of combat sorties an American aircraft carrier can deliver a day? Based on special exercises conducted in the late 1990s, one carrier can generate up to 200 short range (within 300 kilometers of the carrier) sorties a day. About 80 percent of those sorties will be bombers, and about 340 bombs a day can be put on targets. But thats running 24 hour operations, and you can only do that for 3-4 days before the carrier is out of bombs and aircraft fuel. You also exhaust the pilots and ground crews with that tempo of operations. More common is a situation where a carrier only launches fifty sorties a day, dropping about 80 bombs, and only at night and at targets up to a thousand kilometers or more from the carrier. At this rate, a carrier can keep it up for about two weeks before needing a tanker and supply ship to show up and replace aviation fuel and bomb stocks. To increase their bombing  capability, the navy is getting the new 250 pound SDB smart bomb and UCAVs (unmanned bombers). The UCAVs are smaller than manned aircraft, and use less fuel. More can be used from a carrier. The UCAVs also put less stress on the pilots that operate them from the ground or from other aircraft. This would mean a carriers max bombing ability per day would increase to over a thousand bombs for close range, round the clock operations, and 300 a day for long range, night only operations.


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