The normal sailing distance in a carrier strike group between a carrier and its escort ships is displayed by a US Navy Electronic Warfare

Evolution and Role of Carrier Battle Groups (CVBGs)

Say It With Sailors! The Tradition of the Aircraft Carrier Deck Spell-Out

World War II

  • Initial Use: CVBGs were first employed in World War II, primarily in the Pacific theater between the United States and Japan.
  • Notable Battles:
    • Battle of Coral Sea: Marked the first time that aircraft carriers engaged each other.
    • Battle of Midway: A month later, this battle was another significant confrontation involving CVBGs.
  • Composition: WWII-era CVBGs consisted of a larger number of ships compared to modern configurations.

Cold War

US Navy Electronic Warfare Technician tells how close the escort ships of a carrier strike group typically sail in relation to a carrier

  • Strategic Role: The primary role of the CVBG was to protect the Atlantic supply routes between the United States and Europe in case of conflict with the Soviet Union.
  • Soviet Strategy: The Soviet Navy aimed to disrupt these supply lanes. Lacking large carriers, their focus was on using attack submarines to shadow and, if hostilities broke out, sink US carriers.
  • US Navy’s Response: The CVBG invested heavily in anti-submarine warfare to counter this threat.

Modern Carrier Strike Groups (CSGs)

Transition from CVBG to CSG

  • Terminology Change: In contemporary US Navy operations, the term “Carrier Strike Group” (CSG) has replaced the older “Carrier Battle Group” (CVBG or CARBATGRU).
  • Current Fleet: The US Navy maintains 11 CSGs, with 10 based in the United States and one forward-deployed in Japan.
  • Composition: Typically, a CSG includes:
    • 1 Aircraft Carrier
    • 2 Guided Missile Cruisers
    • 2 Anti-Aircraft Warships
    • 1-2 Anti-Submarine Destroyers or Frigates

Operational Proximity of Escort Ships

Normal Operations

US Navy Electronic Warfare Technician tells how close the escort ships of a carrier strike group typically sail in relation to a carrier

  • General Distances: In typical operations, escort ships sail many miles away from the carrier, often about 2/3 of the way to the horizon or even over the horizon.
  • Exception – Photo Opportunities: For photo opportunities, ships may appear much closer together, but this is not representative of operational norms.

Specific Roles and Proximity

  • Support Vessels:
    • Supply Ships: Maintain a few miles distance from the carrier, usually trailing behind to stay out of operational paths.
    • Plane Guard Warships: Typically positioned roughly 1 nautical mile directly astern of the carrier, ready to react to any aircraft incidents.

Insights from Experience

  • Visual Representation: Images showing ships close to the carrier are staged for visual impact. Operational distances are much greater for tactical and safety reasons.
  • Operational Example: A former US Navy Electronic Warfare Technician described these typical distances, emphasizing that actual operational spacing ensures both effective coordination and safety.


The evolution of CVBGs to modern CSGs reflects changes in naval strategy and technology. While the role of protecting vital sea lanes and countering submarine threats remains, the composition and operational tactics of these groups have adapted to contemporary needs. Escort ships maintain significant distances from carriers during normal operations, with close formations reserved for specific purposes like photo opportunities.

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