Saturday, 31 December 2016

INFOGRAPHICS #23: U.S. Navy Carrier Strike Group (CSG)

Ships from the George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group simulate
a strait transit in the Atlantic Ocean on Dec 10, 2013. Photo
by Justin Wolpert, U.S. Navy
A carrier strike group (CSG) is an operational formation of the United States Navy. It is composed of roughly 7,500 personnel, a nuclear-powered super-carrier (Nimitz class), which is the centerpiece of the strike group and also serves as the flagship for the CSG Commander and respective staff, at least one cruiser (Ticonderoga class), a destroyer squadron of at least two-three destroyers (Arleigh Burke class) and/or two-three frigates (currently the U.S. Navy does not operate any frigates, thus more destroyers in the group), a carrier air wing of about 70 aircraft (typically up to nine squadrons) and up to two nuclear-powered attack submarines (Los Angeles class, Virginia class), used to screen the strike group against hostile surface ships and submarines, but which also carry cruise missiles for long-range strike capability. A carrier strike group also, on occasion, includes attached logistics ships and a supply ship. CSGs are not restricted to a specific composition and can be modified depending on expected threats, roles, or missions expected during a deployment, and one may be different from another. The Navy states that "there really is no real definition of a strike group. Strike groups are formed and disestablished on an as needed basis, and one may be different from another. However, they all are comprised of similar types of ships."

The U.S. Navy Carrier Strike Group. An illustration by Austin Rooney for the United States Navy. High resolution image.
Carrier Air Wing. High resolution image here.
The carrier strike group commander operationally reports to the commander of the numbered fleet, who is operationally responsible for the area of waters in which the carrier strike group is operating. Carrier strike groups comprise a principal element of U.S. power projection capability. Previously referred to as Carrier Battle Groups (a term still used by other nations; the change in nomenclature from 'Battle' to 'Strike' appears to have been connected with an increasing emphasis on projecting air power ashore), they are often referred to by the carrier they are associated with (e.g., Enterprise Strike Group). As of March 2016 there are ten (10) carrier strike groups. The carrier strike group is a flexible naval force that can operate in confined waters or in the open ocean, during day and night, in all weather conditions. The principal role of the carrier and its air wing within the carrier strike group is to provide the primary offensive firepower, while the other ships provide defense and support. These roles are not exclusive, however. Other ships in the strike group sometimes undertake offensive operations (launching cruise missiles, for instance) and the carrier's air wing contributes to the strike group's defense (through combat air patrols and airborne anti-submarine efforts). Thus, from a command and control perspective, carrier strike groups are combat organized by mission rather than by platform.


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