US Air Force VS US Navy | Who Has the Best Air Force?

In today’s episode of Aerospace Engineer explains, we’re to be pitting the United States Navy’s Air fleet versus the US Air Force’s air fleet together in an all out war to see who really has air superiority.

So before jumping into this analysis, I do have to put a disclaimer out there and say that I am a navy brat. I grew up around the US Navy. My dad was a navy pilot. So I am a little bit biased in that regard. But I promise I’m going to try to be as impartial as possible.

But I’m sure you’re going to let me know how impartial I was down in the comments section below. Do it. I would also like to preface this video by stating the mission statements of the US Air Force and the US Navy. The mission statement of the US Air Force is to fly, fight, and win in air space and cyberspace, while the mission of the United States Navy is to maintain, train, and equip combat ready naval forces capable of winning wars, deterring aggression, and maintaining freedom of the seas. And as such, all of the aircraft of the US Navy and the US Air Force are specifically designed to help them carry out these stated objectives.

So let’s go ahead and lay down the parameters of what this war of the air force versus the navy is going to be. So to start off, I’m defining the navy as the Department of the Navy, meaning I’m going to include marines and the navy together as one. Just to make it a little more fair of a battle. The next parameter of this war is that all assaults can only be air based. My goal in making this video is not to see what the better branch is, but really it’s designed to be who has the better air force, who is going to maintain air superiority over a given airspace.

So furthermore, that means that there’s not going to be any ground based assaults, meaning none of the navy ships, the battleships, the submarines, the air force’s nukes, missiles, silos, anything like that. There’s not going to be anything ground based attacking any of the air force. However, the ground and sea forces can be used in battle scenarios to support the aircraft, but not specifically to mount attacks. And on the navy side, we’re ruling out any special forces or ground attacks. So that means no marine assaults, no Navy Seals.

That would just be unfair to the air force. The objective of this war is to see which branch can successfully maintain control of a given airspace over a neutral territory, not the United States. So now that we have the ground rules out of the way, we can start to analyze who has the leg up in the beginning of the war. So first, let’s take a look at the existing bases for both the air force and the Navy. The air force currently has five operational bases in western Europe and four in eastern Asia, while the Navy maintains four operational bases in Europe and at least six in Asia.

But the real trump card as far as navy bases go is their ten aircraft carriers. These nuclear powered aircraft carriers can stay at sea for literally years, maintaining themselves autonomously without any other support other than replenishing cargo. These floating cities act as forward operating bases for all the operations in the navy and is immediately going to give the navy a leg up in this war. So right off the bat, the navy moves to establish a foothold over the disputed territory and immediately gains air superiority. And with the assistance of the Marines, they can also set up makeshift forward operating bases on the land, in addition to their tent aircraft carriers that could be parked right off the shore of the disputed territory.

The agility of the US Navy to accomplish such a task quickly disadvantages the US Air force. The US Air force has approximately 5266 aircraft in operation, while the Department of the Navy only has 3555 aircraft. A quick glance at these numbers and you may assume that the navy has already lost in the air superiority realm. But we also have to consider the fact that these numbers include noncombative aircraft. For instance, both of these numbers include cargo aircraft and uavs.

So let’s go ahead and take a look at the noncombative aircraft on these lists to see who has the advantage. In each category, the Navy has a fleet of about 43 reconnaissance aircraft, while the Air force has a fleet of 53 reconnaissance aircraft, basically putting them at a tie due to the fact that they’re noncombative. Looking at the cargo aircraft, we begin to see how the air force really does get its name. Duh. The Air force has 768 cargo aircraft, while the Navy only fields 208 aircraft.

However, like I said, most of these cargo aircraft are meant to support ground operations, move troops and supplies, so they don’t really factor too much into our fictitious battle scenario. The Navy does edge out the air force in utility aircraft and patrol aircraft, but the air force has a leg up on search and rescue and a huge advantage in trainer aircraft, which for the purpose of this exercise, we’re going to say trainer aircraft are also noncombatants. Which leads us to our greatest advantage in the noncombative category, the air refueling aircraft. The Navy only has 69 refueling aircraft or tankers, as opposed to the air force. Which has 478 refueling aircraft.

In fact, the Navy does rely heavily on these air force tankers for midair refueling in a lot of their operations. So them not having access to these refueling aircraft is going to cripple their range. So up to now, we’ve only looked at non combative aircraft. All of these aircraft are meant to support air superiority and ground operations. However, now we’re going to start to look at the direct combat role aircraft.

And in case you wanted to keep track of who is winning in each of those categories, the air force currently leads four to two. So if we look at the total number of combat aircraft in the Navy, we see that the Navy has about 2211 combat aircraft, while the air force fields a fleet of about 2497 combat aircraft. And that gives us a difference of about 286, which is much closer than the total number of aircraft that we saw at the beginning of this video, which leads us straight into our first category of helicopters. The Navy really dominates in this arena, along with the Marines, with the Navy having over 1000 helicopters and the air force having only 211 helicopters. However, these helicopters are mostly meant for close ground support and the movement of troops between different ground stations, so they wouldn’t be quite as much as a factor as other combat aircraft in this battle scenario.

As far as uavs, the air force handedly leads the Navy with over 251 uavs to the Navy’s 78 uavs. Now, this next category of aircraft is often not talked about too much because it’s not as fun and they’re exciting as your fighter jets or your big cargo aircraft or your bombers, but it has a very critical role in the battlefield. This category I’m calling command and control. This includes all the early warning, the electronic warfare aircraft. All of this is going to be included in this category.

If I could generalize this category and what their main objective is, I would say most of these aircraft are intended to be an early warning aircraft. That means that these aircraft are meant to seek out other enemy combatants, other aircraft missiles, or any other incoming threats to the rest of the aircraft fleet. Now, this includes anything from the e two, which is a carrier based aircraft, or the e three sentry, or even the EA 18, which has jamming capabilities. The air force has about 84 of these aircraft, while the US Navy has over 264 of these aircraft. Aircraft such as the e two and the EA 18 Growler are essential in defending the navy’s fleet, especially their aircraft carriers.

The EA 18 Growler is almost indistinguishable from the f 18, which means it can have similar dogfighting capabilities and attack roles that the f 18 has, and these aircraft are actually very capable because they can jam electronics on incoming aircraft. The Navy also fields 81 e two s, which are so important because they can detect stealth aircraft with their UHF or ultra high frequency radars. And this is key for the Navy because they’re going to need to be detecting the b two s. The F Air Force ultimately, this is a huge advantage for the Navy in defending themselves against highly capable assets like the f 22, which leads us to our last, and I’m sure your favorite category, the fighter jets. Currently, the air Force has about 1904 fighter jets in their fleet, and this is a sizable advantage for the Air Force because the Navy fields 1041 aircraft of their own, which is almost a 900 aircraft advantage.

Now I can feel some of you are already going down in the comment section below trying to tell me that Navy pilots are better so they would easily take out the air force. But for simplicity’s sake, I’ve really had to make this as impartial as possible and assume that the pilots are equally as capable. The first and easiest aircraft to take out of the equation was the f 35. The Air Force currently has 184 f 35 a variants, the Marines field 57 f 35 B’s and the Navy field 118 f 35 c’s. In total.

That’s the Air Force slightly advantaged at 184 F Department of the Navy’s 175 aircraft. And like I said, this is the easiest one to cancel out because they have almost identical capabilities in all the variants of the f 35. So it’s pretty easy for me to write them out. But if you want to learn more about the specific differences between the f 35 variants, make sure you watch my fighter jets ranked video. Now for this next section of aircraft with comparable capabilities, I lumped the f 22 with the f 15 and the f 18 Super Hornet with the Growler.

So if we total up these aircraft together, we get the air Force with 667 aircraft and the Navy with 671 aircraft. Now I recognize the fact that the f 22 is far superior to both the Super Hornet and the Growler. However, I think it’s a level playing field here because the f 22 would no longer have its stealth ability with aircraft in the Navy, such as the e two with UHF that would easily be able to detect it, rendering its beyond visual range technology largely ineffective, forcing it into a close combat zone where the f 18 really does have a fighting chance against the f 22. Now, in my next class of aircraft, the air force does have an advantage with 287 a ten Thunderbolts or Warthogs against the Navy’s Harriers and their f five s. Even with the f five superior capabilities in maneuverability and speed, the a ten warthog would come out on top by sheer number alone.

But up until this point, we’ve gone really back and forth between the air force and the navy. But the fight is not over yet, because as some of you may have noticed already, I have not even mentioned one of the air force’s most plentiful aircraft, the f 16. The Air Force has 804 operational f 16 Fighting Falcons, which only leaves a remaining 211 f 18 Hornets to combat against. And up until this point of the war, the navy has maintained control of its assets and the disputed region. But now its airfee has grown thin, along with the air force’s dwindling fleet.

But it’s time for the air force to make its final assault on the navy. Utilizing its absolutely, overwhelmingly massive fleet of f 16s as escorts, the air force can finally use its fleet of 152 bomber aircraft against all of the naval assets. And with the navy’s aerial fighting force dwindling in numbers and struggling to maintain control of the disputed territory, they’ll finally be able to break through with the support of the over 800 f 16 aircraft. And the Navy currently has no counter to these bomber aircraft as they currently have no operational bombers. Meaning that the air force can finally end this war with their final shock and awe campaign against the navy.

And as much as it kills me to say it, the air force would finally succeed in maintaining air superiority against the navy. It would have been an incredibly hard fought war. But with the air force’s 152 bombers and their over 900 fighter jet advantage to the navy, they would come out as victors. That being said, if the navy wasn’t fighting with one arm tied behind its back, it would easily win. With all of its assets and destroyers and submarines, the Marines themselves would mount a ground force that would be nearly unstoppable to the air force, not to mention the Navy SeALs.

But like I said at the beginning of this video, this was not a question of who has the better branch, but who has the better air force. And although it kills me to say it, in the year 2021, as the Air Force currently stands, it would be able to maintain air superiority versus the Navy alone. So making videos like this take an enormous amount of research and analysis. So if you wouldn’t mind at all, and you found this video informative, please consider subscribing to this channel so I can continue to make content like this. And if you want to see content like this in shorter formats, you can also follow me on Instagram and TikTok as well.

Thank you so much for watching and God speed.


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