From the first test flight of an aircraft off a US Navy warship in 1910 to the first Naval Aviator taking flight in a seaplane in 1911, the US Navy led the way for aquatic aircraft in military service. The idea and concept for the first naval catapult for aircraft off ships was developed in 1915 by a Captain in the Navy. Naval aviation was just getting started, but developing quickly. While Naval aviation played a key role in those early years and through World War 1, it wasn't until the second World War that the true potential for military aviation, especially with the entrance of the Aircraft Carrier as a key component of war, truly came to light as the future for military might and air dominance. The Aircraft Carrier became the decisive and strategic way to win battles, changing the shape of the war in the pacific during the famous Battle of Midway where US Carrier forces delivered a crippling blow to the Japanese Naval forces sinking 4 carriers and other naval ships. The Aircraft Carriers on both sides never actually spotted each other, nor shells fired from Naval ships accompanying the Carries; no this battle was fought with air power from those Carriers. Many of the most famous Naval Aircraft in history patrolled the skies during World War 2, including household names like the Corsair, Hellcat, Avenger, and Catalina that are still well known today.
Naval Aviation continued to advance at a fast rate after World War 2, using propeller aircraft a little longer than the newly created Air Force along with new jet powered aircraft. With the FH-1 Phantom being the first jet aircraft to operate on a carrier, soon the Bearcats and Tigercats gave way to new breeds of jet aircraft including the famous F9F Panther. Moving right on forward into the 1970s, the entrance of the F-4 Phantom II ushered an age of supersonic high tech aircraft into the mix, eventually leading the way for the most well known and iconic Naval aircraft, the F-14 Tomcat, to rule the Naval skies. Staying in operation until 2006 after being replaced by the Navyís current front line fighter, the F/A-18 Hornet, the Tomcat truly earned its place in Naval history. Now, with the F/A-18 Super Hornet leading the way into the future for the Navy, a new type of fighter has started to emerge in the form of the Joint Strike Fighter.
The US Navy isnít the only branch celebrating an amazing history as the US Marines are also taking part in this celebration with the Centennial of Marine Crops Aviation. Sharing much of the same aircraft as the Navy, the US Marines have also used the F/A-18 Hornet as their main fighter of choice along with their own AV-8B Harrier vertical take-off and landing strike jet and their workhorse heavy lifting helicopters including the mighty CH-53 Super Stallion and the brand new MV-22 Osprey. With all of this rich history of aviation coming together this year, an airshow of epic proportions was needed to showcase this celebration, and the decision came to host it at the birthplace of Naval Aviation, San Diego California.
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