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

Carrier Battle Group (CVBG)

The concept of the Carrier Battle Group (CVBG) was first implemented during World War II, primarily in the Pacific theater during conflicts between the United States and Japan. CVBGs at the time consisted of a significantly larger number of ships than modern-day CVBGs. The only recorded instances of CVBGs engaging in combat with each other were during the Battle of Coral Sea and the Battle of Midway, both pivotal naval battles in 1942.

During the Cold War, the primary role of the CVBG was to safeguard Atlantic supply routes between the United States and Europe in the event of a conflict with the Soviet Union. The Soviet Navy’s strategy focused on disrupting these supply lines, a task made easier by their lack of large aircraft carriers. Instead, the Soviet Navy’s attack submarines were tasked with shadowing and potentially sinking U.S. carriers. Recognizing this threat, CVBGs dedicated substantial resources to anti-submarine warfare.

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Carrier Strike Group (CSG)

In contemporary U.S. Navy operations, the term “Carrier Strike Group” (CSG) has replaced “Carrier Battle Group” (CVBG). The Navy maintains 11 CSGs, with 10 based in the United States and one forward-deployed in Japan. A typical CSG or CVBG includes:

  • 1 Aircraft Carrier
  • 2 Guided Missile Cruisers
  • 2 Anti-Aircraft Warships
  • 1-2 Anti-Submarine Destroyers or Frigates

Proximity of Escort Ships to the Carrier

The distance at which escort ships of a CSG typically sail in relation to the carrier varies significantly from what is often depicted in photos. According to Scott Hanson, a former U.S. Navy Electronic Warfare Technician, such close formations are generally staged for photo opportunities. In operational scenarios, the escort ships are usually positioned many miles away from the carrier, often about two-thirds of the way to the horizon or sometimes even on or beyond the horizon.

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

The exceptions to this rule include support vessels like supply ships and warships performing plane guard duties. Supply ships maintain a few miles’ distance from the carrier, usually trailing behind to avoid interference. A destroyer or other warship assigned to plane guard duties will position itself roughly 1 nautical mile directly astern of the carrier, ready to assist in the event of a plane ditching.

Hanson emphasizes this point by describing typical operational distances where other ships in a CVBG/CSG are positioned far from the carrier, reflecting a more realistic deployment pattern for the group’s various ships.

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

Summary

  • World War II CVBGs: Engaged in large-scale naval battles, notably Coral Sea and Midway.
  • Cold War Role: Protected Atlantic supply routes; focused on anti-submarine warfare.
  • Modern CSGs: Include a mix of carriers, cruisers, destroyers, and frigates; maintain operational distances of many miles between ships.
  • Escort Ship Positioning: Typically far from the carrier, with specific roles such as supply and plane guard ships maintaining closer but still significant distances.

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