By Vice Adm. DeWolfe Miller III, Commander, Naval Air Forces/Commander, Naval Air Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet
Midway. The mere mention of it warms the heart of a U.S. aircraft carrier Sailor. At Midway Island, American aircraft carriers secured the greatest victory in our Navy’s history and changed the course of World War II. The aviators who served and flew off carriers Enterprise, Hornet and Yorktown struck a decisive blow against the powerful Japanese fleet. During the Battle of Midway, the aircraft carrier proved to be the preeminent weapon system in the naval arsenal, a distinction that it holds today and will hold for the foreseeable future.
Midway, a feature-length film scheduled for release on November 8, tells the story of the Sailors and aviators who fought so bravely in June 1942. This retelling comes at a critical time for our Navy and our nation. Seeing the attack on Pearl Harbor and the Battle of Midway on the big screen serves as a reminder of the cost of unpreparedness in an age of great power competition.
Under the brave leadership of Admirals Raymond Spruance and Frank Fletcher, our Sailors displayed toughness and answered the call. Young aviators, lacking experience and flying planes that were no match for the Japanese aircraft, stared death in the face and delivered. Overcoming long odds, these heroes carried the day and prevailed in war at sea.
Unlike the fleet of late 1941 and early 1942, today’s aircraft carriers are trained, equipped, and ready for a high-end fight. The large-deck nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and embarked carrier air wing are relevant and potent year after year and decade after decade because they remain lethal, agile, and resilient. Modern carrier strike groups (CSGs) comprise an ever-changing combination of cutting-edge technology, next generation aircraft, and advanced weapons systems to remain dominant over realized and potential threats. They are central to conduct of Distributed Maritime Operations within the modern Fleet Design.
The CSG provides our national command authority with options, access, and a survivable forward presence that allows for a rapid response to a wide spectrum of threats or natural disasters. The speed, composition, integration, and maneuverability of a CSG allow it to penetrate contested waters and airspace, enabling the embarked air wing to project unrelenting power over great distances. The CSG’s ability to sail and fight anywhere in the maritime domain enables the United States to continue to secure peace, stability, and strategic lines of commerce and communications around the world.
America requires the right aircraft carriers—and enough of them—to operate with allies, overmatch adversaries, and defend national interests in this age of great power competition. In the future, when the president and fleet commanders ask the familiar question, “Where are the carriers?” the answer must be, “On station and ready.”
And manned with Aviators and Sailors with the same grit and determination as their predecessors at Midway.
NOTE: This blog is the first of a four-part series to honor the Navy victory at the Battle of Midway and to highlight current Navy capabilities against modern and future U.S. adversaries.