“Maritime Air Logistics for the New Millennium Moving the Way Forward…From the Sea.”
this article adapted from The Naval Reserve Association Webpage

Fleet Logistics Support Wing
“Providing 100% of the Medium/Heavy Organic Airlift for United States Maritime Forces”

The changing geo-political landscape has radically transformed the very basis of the U.S. Navy’s strategy, culture, and identity. Command of the sea is no longer in doubt. Since the emergence of the United States as the world’s only superpower with a global maritime force, the Navy continues to evolve, while shifting away from countering a massive threat on a global scale. The new strategy is to project power and influence across an enemy’s littoral during a regional crisis. Today’s Navy has changed focus and emphasis from the open ocean environment to influencing events ashore. In projecting that landward influence maritime forces respond from a forward-deployed stance. These forces are invariably the first to respond to national tasking and to arrive on-scene at a potential hot-spot or regional crisis in the making. While sea control will always remain a core competency, the complex and treacherous in-shore, green-water areas of the world have become the primary battle space for today’s Navy/Marine Corps Team, and will remain so for some time.

This fundamental change to a rapid response, littorally focused force, highly expeditionary in nature, requires a reliable, flexible, and dedicated maritime air logistics capability — a capability found in the 14 squadrons of the Naval Air Reserve’s Fleet Logistics Support Wing. These squadrons…“relevant, viable and cost-effective...” are a vital resource, providing sustainment and mobility to U.S. maritime forces, today and into the future.

“Welcome aboard VR flight...”

Every day, all over the world, passengers hear that comforting and familiar introduction while taxiing for departure aboard a Fleet Logistics Support Wing (FLSW) C-9, C-130, or C-20 aircraft. As part of the Navy’s “Total Force” concept, active and reserve forces operating together to maximize U.S. combat capability, FLSW squadrons are a critical component to deployed maritime operations. Not just a force in reserve, but a force “in being,” these squadrons represent the Navy’s sole organic maritime airlift capability.

The Navy’s requirement for Navy Unique Fleet Essential Airlift (NUFEA), stems from the constantly changing, “moving target” nature of deployed naval forces. These forces, typically the first to arrive on-scene during a crisis situation, and the last to leave, require a flexible, reliable, on -demand logistics chain. When ships and airwings are deployed, their warfighting capabilities are directly related to the condition of their weapons systems and personnel. The importance of this has long been recognized, although not completely understood. As Fleet Admiral King remarked to a staff officer in 1942, “I don’t know what the hell this ‘logistics’ is that Marshall is always talking about, but I want some of it.”

Navy Unique Fleet Essential Airlift is complementary to and does not compete with, nor is duplicative of, Air Mobility Command (AMC). AMC is responsible for providing intertheater, or strategic airlift, and does an outstanding job in that arena. However, lack of flexibility in the AMC approach to scheduling severely limits airlift accessibility when meeting unforeseen and emergent Navy demands.

The mission of maritime air logistics is important, demanding, and unrelenting. To many, the mission may seem easy. But it just doesn’t happen, someone has to make it happen, and the talented and dedicated professionals of the Fleet Logistics Support Wing have made it happen for over 25 years. While often tagged with the label of “no warfare specialty,” the personnel of FLSW are in fact a cross section of every aviation community, and represent the finest from every aviation warfare specialty. This diversity in backgrounds is a source of strength, insight, and experience few airwings in the Navy can claim.

The Largest Airwing In The Navy


Naval Air Transport—a Long and Proud History

Unknown to many, the Navy has been in the air logistics business for many years, starting with the establishment of the Naval Air Transport Service (NATS) in the early days of World War II. Beginning in 1942, Navy aircrews flying the venerable Douglas C-47 “Skytrain” conducted numerous logistics support missions between India and China. These crews performed heroically, contending with both weather and Japanese fighter aircraft while crossing the Himalayan mountains in carrying out the famous “over-the-hump” operations. NATS continued to grow, and by the end of the War, 430 Navy transport aircraft traversed a world-wide route system of over 70,000 miles in providing airlift to deployed U.S. military forces. In 1948, shortly after the Department of Defense was created as the unifying central authority over the three branches of the Armed Forces, NATS was combined with the Air Force’s Air Transport Command to form the Military Air Transport Service (MATS), the predecessor of today’s Air Mobility Command. As an integral part of MATS, Navy VR squadrons distinguished themselves in numerous operations, including the Berlin Airlift, and played important roles in both the Korean and Vietnam War.

Eventually, Navy participation in MATS ceased, but Congress recognized the importance and unique aspects of Navy organic air logistics capability, and codified the requirement in Title 10 USC 5062(b):

“All naval aviation shall be integrated with the naval services as part thereof within the Department of the Navy. Naval aviation consists of combat and service and training forces, and includes land-based naval aviation, air transport essential for naval operations,...”

The wartime mobilization requirement for VR squadrons was clearly validated during Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm. Four C-9 squadrons were mobilized and deployed, bringing 12 aircraft and nearly 1000 reservists into theater. Within three days of being activated, these squadrons deployed themselves, and began flying missions “downrange,” airlifting troops and ordnance in support of coalition forces. Those squadrons that remained “at home” greatly increased their tempo of operations, flying priority missions into theater or to forward staging sites. It is noteworthy that of the 51 Reserve Force Squadrons in existence at that time, squadrons of Fleet Logistics Support Wing were the only ones mobilized, and played a direct role in the Gulf War.

Unique Complementary Airlift Capabilities
A Tailored Force Package For Any Maritime Contingency

CONVERTABILITY: 90 PAX OR 28,000 lbs CARGO RANGE: 2,300 nm

VR-46 (NAS Atlanta, GA)
VR-52 (NAS JRB Willow Grove, PA)
VR-56 (NAS Norfolk, VA)
VR-57 (NAS North Island, CA)
VR-58 (NAS Jacksonville, FL)
VR-59 (NAS JRB Fort Worth, TX)
VR-61 (NAS Whidbey Island, WA)

RANGE: 4,100 nm
PAYLOAD: 45.000 lbs or 75 PAX

VR-53 (NAF Wash, D.C.)
VR-54 (NAS JRB New Orleans, LA)
VR-55 (Santa Clara, CA)
VR-62 (NAS Brunswick, ME)

CARGO 4,500 lbs cargo
RANGE: 5,200 nm

VR-1 (NAF Wash D.C. ) C-20D
VR-48 (NAF Wash D.C.) C-20G
VR-51 (MCBH Kanehoe, HI) C-20G

From the CINCs...

"The operational and logistics air support provided by the Commander, Fleet Logistics Support Wing, Navy Air Logistics Office, and supporting C-9 and C-130 squadrons during UNITAS 38-97 was absolutely superb. The Reserve air logistics organization planned, scheduled and executed 44 missions, completing over 100 operational and logistic airlifts with 100 percent mission accomplishment, and transporting over 350,000 lbs. of cargo, mail, and CASREP parts to nine South American countries, and over 235 passengers to and from the theater. The operational and logistics air support provided by these Navy Unique Fleet Essential Airlift (NUFEA) assets was critical as UNITAS units traversed 11,000 nautical miles over a five month deployment while circumnavigating South America, an area with no established DoD logistical or supply support. The air support provided unprecedented operational flexibility at significant cost savings.....” -- RAdm Lyons, USCOMSOLANT 031202Z DEC 97

“A cost benefit analysis...resulted in near continuous twelve month C-9 coverage, eight months of C-130 and four months of C-20 coverage. For the first nine months of FY 97, a modest investment of $538K of TAD money has resulted in a cost avoidance of $4.6M, an eight-fold return on each TADTAR investment dollar....As of 1 July 97, NALO assets deployed to Atsugi have transported 7553 personnel and 986,896 lbs. of tasked cargo in support of forward deployed WESTPAC forces. This airlift support was provided at no cost to the requesting commands. Commercial travel, comparable to or cheaper in price to AMC rates, for these personnel alone would have cost the requesting commands approximately $3.9M.” -- COMFAIRWESTPAC, 150330Z AUG 97

“CNO, I’d like to highlight the excellent logistics support that Steve Keith’s Naval Air Reservists provided to our theater for operation ‘Noble Obelisk.’ As events unfolded in Sierra Leone, the CJTF needed fast delivery of high priority personnel and cargo that couldn’t wait until AMC established an air channel. VR-52 assumed the critical mission on short notice by sending a C-9 from Sigonella to Rota, then delivering 45 Sailors and Marines and 10K of essential cargo 3500 miles downrange to the airhead at Conakry, Guinea. This is typical of the flexibility and responsiveness our Naval Air Reserve brings to NAVEUR. The Naval Air Reserve team has saved NAVEUR $10M per year and provides a service unavailable elsewhere at any price. They are a superb asset that consistently provides Navy Unique Fleet Essential Airlift support when, where, and as fast as we need it.” -- Adm Lopez, CINCUSNAVEUR, 010900Z JUL 97

The Future

The future appears bright for the Fleet Logistics Support Wing. As maritime component commanders continue to recognize the importance of rapid-response, flexible and focused air logistics, demand for these services will continue to grow. FLSW squadrons consistently operate at optimum levels of efficiency and operational tempo, and the Wing has evolved into a relevant, capable and robust force.

One of the more pressing concerns impacting the ability of FLSW to provide maritime air logistics into the next century, is the issue of a replacement aircraft for the C-9. The C-130T and the C-20 are current generation, state-of-the-art platforms with long and productive service lives ahead of them. Since their relatively recent fleet introduction, these communities have matured, each filling a critical niche in the maritime airlift force mix. In contrast, the C-9, the workhorse of the fleet for many years, is an aging, “first generation” transport that presents reliability, supportability, and maintainability problems. In order to guarantee fleet commanders the level of airlift they have come to expect and depend on, a progressive and comprehensive modernization plan to replace the C-9 fleet with the 737-700, designated the C-40A, needs to be formulated, funded and executed. While two of these aircraft have been funded, with an option for a third, through National Guard and Reserve Equipment (NGRE) funds, there are no further provisions to continue the buy beyond these three initial aircraft. These aircraft represent a significant increase in capability, performance and reliability, and will meet fleet needs for the next 30 years. Delivery of the first aircraft is scheduled for December 2000.

The issue of “aging aircraft” was first brought to the attention of the commercial airline industry with the tragic and dramatic Aloha Airlines accident in April, 1988. An early model Boeing 737, an aircraft of the same vintage of many Navy C-9s, lost an upper section of its fuselage skin while cruising at 24,000 feet. This catastrophic failure was attributed to undetected structural cracks inherent in older, high-time/high-cycle airframes. The average age of the 27 aircraft that comprise the C-9 fleet is 25 years, and the oldest, part of the used aircraft buy, is 31 years old, making them some of the oldest airframes in the inventory. Although they are superbly maintained at the squadron level, the effects of fatigue and corrosion on these airframes will continue to manifest themselves, requiring expensive, contractor-provided depot-level maintenance, as well as significant out-of-service time to keep them airworthy. Last year, C-9 overhaul and rework costs accounted for nearly one-third of the entire Commander, Naval Air Reserve Force contract maintenance budget.

Replacement of the C-9 with the C-40A will enable FLSW to continue to meet the needs of fleet commanders, and is fundamental to the future of maritime air logistics.

Into the Millennium

Across the full spectrum of maritime contingency, whether the mission is Forward Presence, Deterrence, Crisis Prevention or Power Projection, maritime air logistics provide the unique and essential capability to keep the Navy/Marine Corps Team “on station.” The members of Fleet Logistics Support Wing stand ready to respond when called upon.

this page adapted from the Naval Reserve Association web site