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How Many Aircraft In A Group/Squadron Ect

Sat Jun 28, 2003 11:25 pm


Was just watching the classic Gregory Peck film, "12 O'clock high" the other night.

Anyway during the course of the movie they kept talking about having 21 aircraft in the fiction 918th bomb group, that Peck commanded. And since they flew as a high, low and middle squadron, I assume that the group was made up of three squadrons of 7 aircraft each.

I know lots of math involved with figuring that one out.

Anyway I did get me to start wondering.

I have a copy of "Once they where Eagles" written by the former inter officer of VMF 214 Frank Walton. Anyway in his book about the Black Sheep. He mentions that between 214's first and second tours the Marines changed the number of aircraft in squadrons, so that when they returned from leave, they picked up a half dozen new pilots and aircraft.

Anyway, I was wonder what is the plane count that is used when forming squadrons, wings, groups and the like. The numbers are going to vary depending on what type of unit, who's air force it is and the time but it would be interesting if we could get a few comparisons up here.
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RE: How Many Aircraft In A Group/Squadron Ect

Sun Jun 29, 2003 1:10 am

http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/agency/index.html has a pretty good breakdown of the organization of US military aviation units. Different services have different philospohies on what a wing, group, and squadron do.

The Navy has two kinds of air wings. The first kind is Carrier Air Wing, which are deployed onto carriers and are assigned squadrons for work-ups and deployment and do the operational employment of aircraft for combat, and other missions, etc. The Carrier Air Wings are composed of 75-85 aircraft of different types.

When the Carrier Air Wing returns from deployment, all of its squadrons fall back to the second kind of wing, known as the "type" wings, e.g. Strike Fighter Wing Pacific, which are administrative organizations and never deploy (so you'll never see one of these on a carrier), and are composed of usually just one type of aircraft, all F-18's or all S-3's, etc, to facilitate maintenance and basic and currency training. The type wings will have over a hundred aircraft all of the same type.

The Marine Corps has just 4 Marine Air Wings. A Marine Air Wing is huge, and will consist of over several hundred aircraft and helicopters, larger than a Navy type wing and totally overwhelming a Carrier Air Wing. Within the Marine Air Wing are several Marine Air Groups. Each Marine Air Group is similar to the Navy's type wing, will normally be composed of aircraft of all one type, e.g. all F-18's or all AV-8's, all attack helos (AH-1/UH-1), or all support helos (CH-46/CH-53s) and consist of around a hundred aircraft or helicopters in a group. And within the Marine Air Group are the individual squadrons which of course are all one type of aircraft.

The Air Force is different in its operating principle. The Air Force Wing is a lot smaller than a Navy type wing or Marine Air Wing, but probably the same size as a Carrier Air Wing. The way I understand it, each wing has an operations group, a support group, a logistics group, medical group. The operations group owns all the airplanes (let's say an F-15 fighter wing will have 72 aircraft of 3 squadrons of 24 aircraft each but I guess it's different for every wing), and operationally employs the aircraft, supported by the support and logistics groups. Some Air Force Wings are composed of just one type of aircraft, and others wings are composed of several different types of aircraft. The one thing the Air Force Wing has to deal with that the Navy and Marine Wings don't care about at all is the Air Force Wing has to maintain the base infrastructure. The Navy and Marine Corps has a separate organization that deals with base maintenance. Looking at the globalsecurity.org site, the Air Force air wing structure is changing.

Anyways, probably doesn't answer any of your questions as to number of aircraft in a squadron. But gives some insight as to the disparity in the different size wings of the different services.

Navy and Marine squadrons tend to have 12 aircraft in a squadron (F-14/F-18/CH-46/CH-53's)
More specialized Navy/Marine Corps squadrons may have less or more than 12 aircraft in a squadron.

As for tactical organization of aircraft, at least from the Navy point of view.
2 aircraft is an element? (flight lead and wingman)
4 aircraft is a division.

Cheers  Smile
Woodreau / KMVL

[Edited 2003-06-28 18:13:52]
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RE: How Many Aircraft In A Group/Squadron Ect

Sun Jun 29, 2003 1:54 am

And of course all this is relevant only to the US  Smile/happy/getting dizzy

Unit size depends on aircraft type plus force organisation.
It can also change over time as you noted.

In WW2 some squadrons might have 50+ aircraft, now there are squadrons with less than 10.

If I remember correctly the B-2s are for example divided into 3 squadrons of 6 aircraft each and one detachment of 2 (or maybe 2 squadrons of 7 and 1 of 6).

The F-117 are serving with 3 squadrons of some 18 aircraft each.

F-16 squadrons may have up to 25 aircraft (and training units even more).

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RE: How Many Aircraft In A Group/Squadron Ect

Sun Jun 29, 2003 10:05 am

Under the soviet system, fighters were typically based in regiments of 81 a/c. Those were divided into 3 squadrons of 27. Each squadron is further divided into 3 units of 9 aircraft, with one plane being a two seater trainer (where applicable) and the 8 others single seaters.

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RE: How Many Aircraft In A Group/Squadron Ect

Sun Jun 29, 2003 2:26 pm

Did that include all types LY?
I doubt they'd do it with tankers and heavy bombers for example. While the basic structure would hold, the squadron (and thereford regiment size) would be smaller.
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RE: How Many Aircraft In A Group/Squadron Ect

Sun Jun 29, 2003 10:50 pm

No, I was only talking about fighter jets. As you said, I'd imagine heavier aircraft would be organized in a different way.

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