Evolution of Carrier Air Groups and Wings


The term Air Group, modified by the name of a carrier, as Saratoga Air Group or so, came into use during the early days of carrier aviation as a collective title for the squadrons operating on board a particular carrier. It remained a mere title until 1 July 1938, when authorization for Air Group Commander billets became effective.With this action, the squadrons on board acquired the unity of a formal command and the carrier air group as such first took form.  

Numerical designation of air groups began in 1942, the first being Carrier Air Group NINE (CVG-9), established 1 March 1942. The carrier air group was sometimes referred to as CAG. However, the official designation was CVG. Existing air groups continued to be known by their carrier names until they were reformed or disbanded, only two of the early groups (Saratoga and Ranger Air Group) escaping the latter fate.   

On 29 June 1944, new letter designations were set up to bring them in line with standardized complements of different carrier types. The new designations, some of which had been in use for over a year, showed carrier type affiliation as follows: CVBG for large carrier air group, CVG for medium carrier air group, CVLG for light carrier air group, and CVEG for escort carrier air group. The CVEG designation was assigned to carriers of the Sangamon Class. The other CVE carrier classes were assigned Composite Squadrons (VC) and listed as air groups (not includes on the folowing Pages). They remained in that category throughout the war period. The CVBG designation was for assignment to the Midway Class carriers, sometimes referred to as the large carriers. 

On 15 November 1946, to correct the results of demobilization which had left squadron numbers all out of sequence and a system of no apparent order, sweeping changes were made in air unit designations. Carrier Air Groups of four types were designated according to their assigned ship, as CVBG for Battle Carrier, CVG for Attack Carrier, CVLG for Light Carrier and CVEG for Escort Carrier.   

Two years later, on 1 September 1948, all carrier air groups became CVG regardless of their carrier affiliation. Carrier Air Groups were retitled Wings on 20 December 1963, and CVG became CVW. Replacement Air Groups, which were set up in 1958, became Combat Readiness Air Groups on 1 April 1963. Popularly known by the short titles RAG and CRAG in the respective periods, their designation throughout was RCVG. When Groups became Wings, CRAG became CRAW and RCVG became RCVW. 

Antisubmarine Carrier Air Groups, CVSG, were established on 1 April 1960. They were slowly phased out during the 1960s, and the last were disestablished on 30 June 1973. On 1 July 1968, the Naval Air Reserve was reorganized into wings and squadrons similar to the active fleet air organizations to ensure a more rapid and efficient transition to combat status in the event of mobilization.   

Two Reserve Carrier Air Wings were established and all carrier-type squadrons in the reserves were placed in these two wings. CVWR was the acronym assigned for the Reserve Carrier Air Wings. A similar organization was established for the Reserve Antisubmarine Carrier Air Groups and assigned the acronym CVSGR. The implementation of these two reserve wings and groups did not take place until 1970.


last update 1. March 2013

written 1. March 2013


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