February 27, 2014

The Carrier Air Wing of the Future

By Nora Bensahel, Thomas Davis, David W. Barno and USA (Ret.)

Written by Senior Fellows and Co-Directors of the Responsible Defense Program LTG David Barno, USA (Ret.) and Dr. Nora Bensahel, and Adjunct Senior Fellow M. Thomas Davis, the paper suggests alternatives as the Navy balances emerging threats, shrinking resources and enduring global responsibilities. The authors write that “the Navy needs a resource-informed strategic approach to the next carrier air wing that accounts for the fact that the operational environment of the 2020s and 2030s could involve very different threats, technologies and capabilities.”


In view of this challenging environment, the authors chart four general options for the Navy as it balances the need to upgrade current capabilities, invest in networked warfare and develop unmanned systems. Although declining defense budgets will frame these choices, the authors argue that “Navy leaders would need to critically examine their choices for how to best shape the carrier air wing of the future even if resources were unconstrained.”


  • Nora Bensahel

  • Thomas Davis

  • David W. Barno

  • USA (Ret.)

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