By Tommy H. Thomason

Monday, March 23, 2009

An Air Group in Transition

This is Hornet deployed in the Pacific sometime between January and July 1957. The spot configuration appears to be after the last recovery before underway replenishment. All the aircraft, except for the plane guard HUP, are parked to starboard of the foul line denoting the clearance limit for landing aircraft. There are 41 aircraft packed over there, roughly 1/2 to 2/3 of the air group depending on squadron strength. The rest are parked on the hangar deck, which can accommodate a maximum of approximately 40 aircraft depending on the type. (Note that three F9F-8s can be spotted in roughly the same space as two FJs.)

Since these Essex-class carriers only had bow catapults, at least the port column of jets will have to be pulled aft for launches, although the ADs could make deck runs off the angle given appropriate weight and wind.

The deployed air group, CVG-14, consists of two fighter squadrons, one with FJ-3 Furies and the other with F9F-8 Cougars; two attack squadrons, one with AD Skyraiders and the other with F9F-8Bs; and several detachments for airborne early warning (AD-5W), night/all-weather attack (AD-5N), photo reconnaissance (F9F-8P), aerial refueling (the AJs), and utility/plane guard (HUPS) .The F9F-8Bs are place holders for the new light attack jets just finishing development, the A4D Skyhawk and the FJ-4B Fury. The big AJs are at the very end of their useful life, having won a reprieve in the Pacific fleet because of their usefulness as airborne tankers for the jets. They are about to be replaced in their strike role with A3D Skywarriors, the first of which have just been deployed to the Mediterranean.

For some reason, there is no all-weather fighter squadron aboard. This air group had deployed in 1954 with a squadron of F2H-3 Banshees but would then make two successive deployments with no night fighters before VF-141 accompanied it with their F4D Skyrays.

The photo is from the National Archives, 80-G-1023566.

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