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66th Tailhook Symposium Stresses Urgency to Deliver Capability and Capacity to the Warfighter

by Rita Boland, Naval Aviation Enterprise (NAE) Public Affairs
13 September 2022 The Tailhook Association’s 2022 symposium—Hook ’22— took place Sept. 8-10, closing with its annual banquet keynoted by the Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday. This year’s theme was celebrating the centennial of the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier. The three-day symposium featured presentations and dialogue from leaders across Naval Aviation and provided opportunities for Naval Aviators to discuss the requirements for current readiness and to shape the future force.

In his keynote address, Gilday addressed four foundational priorities: readiness, capability, capacity and Sailors. “The carrier remains the most lethal and flexible military machine, and the most effective tool for sea control and power projection ever created,” said Gilday, adding that the Navy will continue to adapt the aircraft carrier and embarked air wing to maintain our warfighting advantage.

Gilday reflected on Naval Aviation’s rich history and heritage over the past 100 years. “Your history and your heritage have created an esprit de corps that is special among our Navy communities,” said Gilday.

This year’s symposium was the most well-attended in history, with nearly 4,000 military, civilian and industry leaders from around the world.

National Naval Aviation Museum Historian and Author Hill Goodspeed gave the first major presentation of the symposium discussing the central to the theme of the event—the Centennial of U.S. Navy Aircraft Carriers. He spoke about the history of aviation at sea and the evolution of warfighting capabilities over the past 100 years, from the first trap aboard converted straight deck carrier USS Langley (CV-1) in October 1922, to the advancements of the jet age and the evolution to the newest carrier class—the Gerald R. Ford class. Goodspeed emphasized the angled flight deck, steam catapult and mirror landing system to illustrate innovations that laid the foundation for modern fleet technology and safety.

“The flight deck crew [makes] the aircraft carrier function and [serves] as the backbone of carrier aviation,” said Goodspeed.

On Sept. 9, Naval Aviation flag and general officers from around the fleet joined together for the Aviation Flag Panel to discuss current and future issues with naval aviators, industry partners and veterans. Moderated by Vice Adm. Kenneth Whitesell, Commander, Naval Air Forces, panel members included Adm. Samuel Paparo, Commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet; Lt. Gen. Michael Cederholm, Deputy Commandant for Aviation, Headquarters Marine Corps; Vice Adm. Carl Chebi, Commander, Naval Air Systems Command; Rear Adm. Alvin Holsey, Commander, Navy Personnel Command; Rear Adm. John Meier, Commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic; Rear Adm. Andrew Loiselle, Director, Air Warfare, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (OPNAV N98); and Rear Adm. Richard Brophy, Jr., Chief of Naval Air Training. The members of the panel fielded questions from the audience as well as those submitted in advance.

Whitesell responded to questions regarding efforts to continue improving efficiencies within the Naval Aviation Enterprise (NAE) across the type/model/series (TMS). “I am most proud that Naval Sustainment System-Aviation and Performance-to-Plan that have blossomed into a larger Navy perspective with the Get Real, Get Better movement.”

Retired Adm. Bill Gortney asked what lessons were learned from the stand-up of a Maintenance Operations Center (MOC) a few years ago, designed to improve mission-capable readiness numbers across the NAE. The MOC continues to perform well, with each TMS having or scheduled to stand up its own.

“We are setting up aggressive targets for ourselves to understand what capability we need now, and what levers we need to pull now,” responded Chebi, who discussed a continued emphasis on providing mission-capable aircraft to the fleet and encouraged a renewed sense of urgency for support from our government and industry partners.

Whitesell, who took questions on reducing mishaps, and trends and safety analysis measures, stated Naval Aviation is excellent at post-event evaluation, but can improve in other areas. “Initiatives we are working right now include historical deep dives with the Naval Safety Command (NSC) … so we can try to predict where the next mishap will be,” he stated.

Following the Aviation Flag Panel, Whitesell and Cederholm met with Navy and Marine Corps junior officer attendees, respectively, for open and frank discussions with Naval Aviators in the early stages of their careers.

Tailhook also hosted industry leaders, focusing on their continued collaborative efforts to support Naval Aviation. During the industry update attended by many senior active-duty leaders, Cederholm, who assumed his role as DCA in July 2022, had an opportunity to talk about the first deployment of a Marine Corps F-35C Lightning II squadron, which deployed aboard USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) from January to August 2022. This squadron exemplified the importance of Navy-Marine Corps integration to providing warfighting capabilities to the U.S. combatant commanders.

The annual winging ceremony occurred on the last day of the symposium and was presided by the last remaining A-6 Intruder pilot on active duty, Rear Adm. Jeffrey Czerewko, Commander, Carrier Strike Group Four. Honored at the ceremony were Lt. j.g. John Kingman, 1st Lt. Thomas Warren, and Lt. j.g. Alec Hunter. Paparo presented his Naval Aviator wings, or “Wings of Gold,” to Kingman. Cederholm donated his wings to Warren. Retired Vice Adm. Walter Carter donated his Navy Flight Officer wings to Hunter. The passing down of Naval Aviator wings symbolizes the camaraderie and tradition invested in the newest generation of Naval Aviators by the generations of aviators who came before them.

The Tailhook Symposium is an annual event run by the Tailhook Association – an independent, nonprofit organization supporting aircraft carrier and other sea-based aviation.

The Naval Aviation Enterprise is a collaborative warfighting partnership where Naval Aviation leaders leverage their assigned authorities to deliberate and resolve interdependent issues across the whole of Naval Aviation to provide combat-ready naval air forces to the fleet.

For more information from the NAE, visit https://www.airpac.navy.mil/Organization/Naval-Aviation-Enterprise/.
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