By Vice Adm. David H. Buss
Commander, Naval Air Forces
Commander, Naval Air Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet
Naval aviators will tell you there is a certain kinship and camaraderie that characterizes life in our business. Much of this pride and sense of worth stems from a familiarity with the storied heritage and history that is Naval Aviation. As we look ahead to our second century as the Navy’s air arm, it is also good to look back and reflect.
On Sept. 1, 1942, born out of global events, most notably the Battle of Midway that had occurred just three months prior, U.S. Naval Air Forces, Pacific Fleet (AIRPAC), was established. This command has, like many Navy organizations, displayed an innate ability to adapt to the changing dynamics of warfare. For AIRPAC, this has been true for nearly three quarters of a century.
During World War II, the role of the Navy and its aviation forces expanded rapidly. We witnessed the increasing importance of carrier aviation as an element of striking power. World War II, particularly in the Pacific theater, demonstrated to us the undeniable truth we continue to see reinforced on the global stage today: the deterrent value and immediate striking power our aircraft carriers and their embarked air wings bring to bear make them essential strategic forces sought in times of crisis by our nation’s leadership. The Battle at Midway, and the growing demand for naval aviation forces, inspired Adm. Chester M. Nimitz, commander in chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet, to recommend consolidation of administrative functions across aviation commands in the Pacific creating an efficient and effective command structure. Adm. Ernest King, the Chief of Naval Operations at the time, approved that recommendation and ordered establishment of a new command, Commander, U.S. Naval Air Forces, Pacific Fleet.
Today, AIRPAC is responsible for the manning, training, and equipping of the Navy’s nearly 3,800 aircraft and 11 nuclear-powered aircraft carriers. The evolution of AIRPAC mirrors that of the Navy’s aircraft carrier-centric fleet. As the nature of warfare has changed, so has the Navy’s sea-air power projection concept, keeping naval aviation and the aircraft carrier the dominant force in our military establishment. And so it will be into the foreseeable future.
The striking successes of aircraft carriers in World War II are well known. Since then, the aircraft carrier with its embarked airwing and team of skilled naval aviators has proven to be the primary tool in the nation’s power projection arsenal, while also proving to be a powerful deterrent force as well.
As technology and certain tactics may have changed since the mobile airfield idea was initially conceived, one aspect has remained unchanged- relevant, flexible, agile, forward-deployed naval forces are the order of the day. I am proud to know when security is threatened around the globe, the first call to respond generally goes to our carrier fleet, as we have seen most recently with the precision airstrikes in Iraq by Carrier Air Wing 8 (CVW 8) aircraft launching from the flight deck of USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) in the Arabian Gulf. Today, just as we’ve witnessed so many times in the past, the forward deployed aircraft carrier remains the strategic response of choice.
I am extremely proud to be the Navy’s Air Boss, and I’d like to say Happy 72nd Anniversary COMNAVAIRPAC. FLY! FIGHT! WIN!
Air Boss Sends