Flightline

The Naval Air Force Reserve: Today and Into the Future

Rear Adm. W. Michael “Sky” Crane
Commander, Naval Air Force Reserve
Deputy Commander, Naval Air Force Pacific Fleet
Vice Commander, Naval Air Forces

Over the past century, the Naval Air Force Reserve (NAFR) has played, and continues to play, a large part in readiness for Naval Aviation as a whole. Through the decades of ever-changing, ever-evolving budgetary environments, NAFR has adapted and flexed to continue to provide capability and capacity as part of a total force solution to meet the Navy’s warfighting requirements.

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An F/A-18D Hornet, assigned to the “Fighting Omars” of Fighter Squadron Composite (VFC) 12, prepares to make an arrested landing on the flight deck of Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). (U.S. Navy photo by Senior Chief Photographer’s Mate Mahlon K. Miller)

Over the past century, the Naval Air Force Reserve (NAFR) has played, and continues to play, a large part in readiness for Naval Aviation as a whole. Through the decades of ever-changing, ever-evolving budgetary environments, NAFR has adapted and flexed to continue to provide capability and capacity as part of a total force solution to meet the Navy’s warfighting requirements.

What NAFR looks like today doesn’t reflect what it looked like a decade ago, or a decade before that. With today’s budgetary environment pressurized even more than before, NAFR will continue to evolve and change to provide readiness options at best costs for the Naval Aviation Enterprise (NAE). NAFR currently has squadrons with missions ranging from training future and current pilots to providing strategic and operational warfighting readiness and manpower.

The Tactical Support Wing provides a strategic reserve of tactical aviation units with operational depth. Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 204 is capable of executing its primary strike fighter mission and also regularly executes advanced adversary missions along with Fighter Squadron Composite (VFC) 12, VFC-13 and VFC-111 in support of Active Component operational training requirements. Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 209 recently returned from a two-month deployment to the Pacific where the squadron executed its primary airborne electronic attack mission. (See page 30 for the story.) VAQ-209 recently transitioned from the EA-6B Prowler to the EA-18G Growler, which gives proof today that NAFR squadrons evolve and change as required by the NAE to execute Navy operational requirements.

The Maritime Support Wing (MSW) Patrol Squadrons (VP) 62 and VP-69 have been called on year after year to support the fleet. They currently provide a strategic reserve and an operational reserve capacity in maritime patrol and reconnaissance. Currently both P-3C squadrons are supporting the Active Component’s transition to the P-8A Poseidon, most recently completing a deployment to Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan. MSW’s Helicopter Sea Combat squadron (HSC) 85 provides dedicated rotary wing support to Special Operations Forces (SOF) and is constantly prepared to deploy and support SOF. MSW’s Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 60 provides a strategic reserve of anti-submarine warfare and anti-surface warfare combat aircraft, and one of its detachments recently returned from maritime support in the 4th Fleet area of responsibility.

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An MH-60R Seahawk from Maritime Strike Squadron 60 taxies in on board Naval Air Station Norfolk. (U.S. Navy Photo by Lt. Wesley Holzapfel)

The Fleet Logistics Support Wing represents 100 percent of the Navy’s intra-theater air logistics capability and medium-lift capability, and provides solutions to short notice tasking or mission/load requests at no cost to the Active Component. Their mission set has no counterpart in the Active Component, and remains an integral part of fleet readiness.

Current readiness challenges can be attributed to a number of complex factors over time. Fifteen years of continuous combat operations have put more hours on our Navy’s aircraft in less time than expected. Aging aircraft force us to carefully and strategically manage flight hours while maintaining readiness. These issues will take capital investments to resolve. Additionally, these challenges have directly impacted NAFR, which has adapted yet again. As all of Naval Aviation continues to evolve, NAFR will also continue to adapt while moving forward.

To perform its mission successfully, Naval Aviation must be organized, manned, trained and equipped as a total force. This total force will include the Reserve Component now and into the future. This begs many questions. The first question—looking to the future—is now the time to recapitalize the Reserve Component? If so, is now the time for the Reserve Component to bring more capacity to Naval Aviation? Also, how best will NAFR be a part of the total force solution to deliver strengthened naval power at best cost? NAFR is cost efficient because of its use of Selected Reserve personnel who provide high levels of experience at less cost (think fully ready, but only called when needed). Naval Aviation continues to evolve over time, and in the near future the Navy is developing a strategy to use live, virtual and constructive (LVC) training to more effectively and efficiently train the Navy’s future pilots against the latest threat capabilities. Although the plan is still in development, NAFR expects TSW squadrons to play a significant role in the “live” portion of the LVC training based on their extensive experience in the adversary mission. But what other needs might come as Naval Aviation changes over the coming decades? What does NAFR look like 10, 20, 30 years from now? A Navy that is ready today and prepared for the future is essential to operating in the dynamic environment that is our world. I expect that NAFR will continue to adapt and flex, just as it always has done, to support the world’s finest Navy.

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A C-130T Hercules from Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 64 taxies in on board Naval Air Station Norfolk. (U.S. Navy Photo by Lt. Wesley Holzapfel)

 


 

Rear_Adm_Crane_webRear Adm. Michael Crane is a 1984 graduate of Virginia Tech. He then worked as a civil engineer through 1986. He was commissioned an ensign in December 1986 through Aviation Officer Candidate School, and designated a naval aviator in October 1988.

His career as a naval aviator includes assignments at Fighter Squadron (VF) 101, VF-143, VF-43, Fighter Squadron Composite (VFC) 12, Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VR) 56 and culminated in command of VFC-12. Subsequent command tours include Navy Reserve (NR) Commander Strike Force Training Atlantic, Navy Expeditionary Combat Command’s Expeditionary Training Group and NR U.S Fleet Forces Command (USFFC) Joint Task Force Detachment 100.

Non-command tours include NR Commander Second Fleet (C2F), Joint Forces Air Component Commander, Reserve Component (RC) Director for the merger of USFFC and C2F, RC USFFC and C2F Chief Staff Officer, and NR Chief of Naval Operations, Operations and Plans (N3/N5) Chief Staff Officer. He served on active duty as the director of operations for the Air Launched Weapons Team to manage weapons readiness as an enterprise under Commander, Naval Air Forces (CNAF). Additionally, he served as a facilitator for CNAF’s character and integrity initiative.

Promoted to flag rank in October 2013, Crane served as deputy commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic through October 2015.

His education includes Joint Professional Military Education and a Masters of Arts in National Security and Strategic Studies from the U.S. Navy War College. He has accumulated more than 3,500 flight hours in multiple U.S. Navy aircraft. His awards include the Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal, Navy Commendation Medal, Navy Achievement Medal and other personal and unit awards and citations.