Organization Of The Air Arm Of The Imperial Navy

The Imperial Navy Air Forces
Organization of the Air Arm of the Imperial Navy

The Imperial Navy is the overarching organization for almost every combat unit that operates above the surface of any world. There are of course the rare Imperial Guard Air Regiments, but they will normally be integrated into the Imperial Navy Air Forces (INAF) for any Imperial Army Group. The overarching organization of the Imperial Navy Air Force is loose having largepermanent formations being a rare thing. Where the Imperial Guard has Regiments the Imperial Navy Air Forces has Air Wings. These wings may be permanently based on a particular ship in a fleet similar to Space Wings or based on a vital world to provide immediate air defense. However, the vast majority is transported to the area of operations by a transport/carrier vessel and operates from planetary operating bases during prolonged ground wars.

As I have said the Imperial Navy Air Wing is the largest permanent structure of the Imperial Navy Air Forces. Above the Imperial Navy Air Wing is the Imperial Navy Regional Air Command or/followed by the Imperial Navy Planetary Air Command. The Planetary Air Command may also be the Fleet Air Command, depending on the size of fleet to which they are attached. An Imperial Navy Air Wing Commander commands an Imperial Navy Air Wing, which is equivalent in rank to an Imperial Guard Regimental Commander, generally a Colonel. The following table shows a comparison of the command rank and the ranks of the Imperial Navy Air Forces with those of the Imperial Guard.

IG Org INAF Org IG Rank INAF Rank
Squad Aircraft Sergeant Pilot/Pilot Officer
Platoon Element Lieutenant Flying Officer
Company Flight Captain Flight Lieutenant
Battalion Squadron Lt Colonel Squadron Leader
Regiment Wing Colonel/General Wing Commander
Army Air Force Marshall Vice-AM/Air Marshall

If any operation on a single world grows beyond a single Army requiring more than one Planetary Air Command, the Air Forces would be broken down regional to support operations within specific areas, the regional INAFs. Above those INAFs would be the planetary INAF which could be sister to other planetary INAFs operating under a single fleet INAF in the case of large forces operating underneath a single large Imperial Navy Fleet. The highest ranking INAF officer within a fleet is the nominal Air Forces Commander should the Imperial Lord High Commander not choose his Air Marshall.

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The Imperial Navy Air Forces has six different wing types. Four of these types are wings that are centered on a type of aircraft and have squadrons made up of those aircraft to perform certain task. The other two types of wings are used to provide more flexible formations either to support smaller operations or provide a combined force for very specific roles. The first four wings are the Fighter Wing, Bomber Wing, Tactical Wing, and Mobility Wing. The last two wings are the Composite Wing and the Support Wing.
Firstly every wing is made up of 3 groups, each commanded either by a Group Commander. The three groups are the Operations Group, the Maintenance Group, and the Support Group. The Maintenance Group is there to provide the immediate support to the aircraft and keep them flying and in operating condition. The support group is generally small and made up of Departmento Munitorum personnel and includes the Medical staffs, the Security Companies, and the Wing Chapel. Of course most of the personnel in the support group are from outside the INAF. The last group is the Operations Group. The Operations Group distinguishes what kind of Air Wing it is and contains all the aircraft and the flying personnel.

The Fighter Wing’s Operations Group has between 3 to 5 Fighter Squadrons. Each Fighter Squadron has between 12-18 aircraft of all the same type. This gives the average Fighter Wing roughly 36-90 aircraft. Each Fighter Squadron may also be tailored to a specific task. Some Squadrons may operate purely air-to-air or interceptor squadrons using the Lightning Fighter. Others may be focused on Destruction of Enemy Air Defenses (DEAD), using the tough Thunderbolt loaded with Hellstrike missiles. There may be Strike squadrons meant for going in after targets just behind enemy lies and interdicting the enemy’s supply lines. There may also be Close Air Support (CAS) Squadrons that focus on providing the ground forces with immediate air support should the need arise. The vast majority of Fighter Squadrons however will be general fighter squadrons, capable of handling most of the missions at which the specialized squadrons excel.

Example Imperial Navy Air Forces Fighter Wing
314th Fighter Wing (total of 52 Aircraft)
3141st Interceptor Squadron – 12 Lightning Fighters
3142nd DEAD Squadron – 16 Thunderbolts, focus on Destruction of Enemy Air Defenses
3143rd Fighter Squadron – 12 Thunderbolts
3144th Fighter Squadron – 12 Thunderbolts

The Bomber Wings Operation Group has between 2 and 4 Bomber Squadrons. Each Bomber Squadron has 6 to 12 aircraft all of the same type. A Bomber Wing has between 12 and 48 aircraft. There are a few different types of Bomber Squadrons. There is the standard Bomber Squadron, capable of performing a array of missions. There is the Heavy Bomber Squadron focusing on the employment of large munitions against heavy reinforced targets. There are the CAS Squadrons that like their fighter brethren provide direct support to the ground forces.

Example Imperial Navy Air Forces Bomber Wing
250th Bomber Wing (total of 30 Aircraft)
2501st CAS Bomber Squadron – 6 Marauder Destroyers
2502nd Bomber Squadron – 9 Marauder Bombers
2503rd Bomber Squadron – 9 Marauder Bombers
2504th Heavy Bomber Squadron – 6 Marauder Bombers (Heavy)

The Tactical Wing Operations Group has between 2 and 3 Tactical Squadrons, a Recon and Rescue Squadron, and a CAS Fighter Squadron. Each Tactical Squadron has 2 to 4 flights of 4 Valkyrie Transports and 2 flights of 4 Vulture Gunships. A Tactical Wing normally supports Imperial Guard Storm Trooper Companies and is for special operations. The RnR Squadron and the CAS Fighter Squadron are small squadrons, always on alert to effect the conduct Reconnaissance and Rescue operations when a pilot is shot down and survives.

Example Imperial Navy Air Forces Tactical Wing
145th Tactical Wing (total of 48 Aircraft)
1451st Tactical Squadron – 12 Valkyries and 4 Vultures
1452nd Tactical Squadron – 9 Valkyries and 3 Vultures
1453rd Recon and Rescue Squadron – 4 Valkyries, 2 Vultures, 2 Recon Thunderbolts
1454th CAS Fighter Squadron – 12 Thunderbolts

The Mobility Wing Operations Group has between 3 and 5 Transport Squadrons. A Transport Squadron can be much larger than the other types of squadrons. A transport squadron could have the simple Arvus, the elegant Aquila, or the heavy Hast (Heavy Aerospace Transport). The Arvus is a capable craft able to provide support across the range of operations. The Aquila is a VIP transport and provides a comfortable way to transport the Imperiums high-ranking officials. The last aircraft mention is the Hast, a heavy aircraft for transporting troops or supplies across worlds, while avoiding the need to actually get up into space. The Hast is larger than a Marauder and like the Arvus lacks any protection.

Example Imperial Navy Air Force Mobility Wing
271st Mobility Wing (total of 90 Aircraft)
2711th Supply Squadron – 24 Arvus Lighters
2712th Supply Squadron – 24 Arvus Lighters
2713th VIP Squadron – 6 Aquila and 12 Lightnings
2714th Transport Squadron – 12 Hast Transports
2715th Transport Squadron – 12 Hast Transports

The Composite Wing Operations group has between 4-8 Aircraft Squadrons. At the wings core is most likely 1-2 Fighter and 1-2 Bomber Squadrons. The rest of the wing can have additional Fighter or Bomber squadrons or any squadrons from the Tactical and/or Mobility Wings. Normally composite wings are not permanent formations and are created to provide a wide range of air support functions to a specific Imperial ground front, but not enough to require a full IN Regional Air Command with multiple wings in it. A Composite Wing will normally remain together for the duration of a ground war.

Example Imperial Navy Air Force Composite Wing
1st Composite Wing Lucia Rebellion (total of 67 Aircraft)
3141st Interceptor Squadron – 12 Lightning Fighters
3143rd Fighter Squadron – 12 Thunderbolts
2502nd Bomber Squadron – 9 Marauder Bombers
1452nd Tactical Squadron – 9 Valkyries and 3 Vultures
1453rd Recon and Rescue Squadron – 4 Valkyries, 2 Vultures, 2 Recon Thunderbolts
2712th Supply Squadron – 24 Arvus Lighters

The Support Wing Operations group will have between 4-6 aircraft squadrons. The Support Wing’s primary mission is to provide the functions of Tactical and Mobility Wings to a smaller Regional or Planetary Air Command that does not need a full Tactical or Mobility Wing. There is also another kind of Support Wing which may contain more unique squadrons, like high altitude recon squadrons.

Example Imperial Navy Air Force Support Wing
264th Support Wing Lucia Rebellion (total of 68 aircraft)
2641st Supply Squadron – 24 Arvus Lighters
2642nd VIP Squadron – 4 Aquila and 8 Lightnings
2643rd Transport Squadron – 12 Hast Transports
2644th Recon and Rescue Squadron – 4 Valkyries, 2 Vultures, 2 Recon Thunderbolts
2645th Recon Squadron – 4 Marauder Recons and 8 Thunderbolt Recons

The wings detailed above are a general idea of how the majority of the Imperial Navy Air Forces are structured. I have only detailed the general wing structures. There could be a multitude of squadron variants spread throughout the wing types. Those may be for another article though.

Types and Compositions of Squadrons
This is a list of squadrons found throughout the Imperial Navy Air Forces. It is in no way a complete list and is just to give an example of the kind of squadrons found throughout the Imperium of man. Squadrons may have additional flights that provide supporting functions such as analysis and planning.

Interceptor Squadron
Primary Purpose: Air-to-Air
Mission Types: Escort, Area Sweep, CAP
Aircraft: 12-24 Lightings
Organization: 3-6 Flights/2-4 Elements/2 Aircraft

DEAD Squadron
Primary Purpose: Destruction of Enemy Air Defenses
Mission Types: DEAD
Aircraft: 12-24 Thunderbolts
Organization: 3-6 Flights/2-4 Elements/2 Aircraft

Fighter Squadron
Primary Purpose: Tactical Fighter
Mission Types: Air-to-Air, CAS, CAP, DEAD, Interdiction
Aircraft: 12-24 Thunderbolts/Lightings/Lighting Strikes
Organization: 3-6 Flights/2-4 Elements/2 Aircraft

Ground Attack/CAS Squadron
Primary Purpose: Ground Attack
Mission Types: CAS, DEAD, Interdiction
Aircraft: 12-24 Thunderbolts/Lighting Strikes
Organization: 3-6 Flights/2-4 Elements/2 Aircraft

Ground Attack/CAS Bomber Squadron
Primary Purpose: Ground Attack
Mission Types: CAS, DEAD, Interdiction
Aircraft: 6-12 Marauder Destroyers
Organization: 3-6 Flights/2-4 Elements/1 Aircraft

Bomber Squadron
Primary Purpose: Ground Attack
Mission Types: Strategic Attack, DEAD, Interdiction
Aircraft: 6-12 Marauders
Organization: 3-6 Flights/2-4 Elements/1 Aircraft

Tactical Squadron
Primary Purpose: Tactical Insertion
Mission Types: Air Assault, Rescue, Air Transport
Aircraft: 9-18 Valkyries & 3-6 Vultures
Organization: 3-6 Flights/2-4 Elements/1 Aircraft

Recon and Rescue Squadron
Primary Purpose: Tactical Insertion
Mission Types: Tactical Recon, Rescue
Aircraft: 4-6 Valkyries, 2-3 Vultures, 0-4 Recon Thunderbolts
Organization: 3-6 Flights/2-4 Elements/2 Aircraft

High Altitude Recon Squadron
Primary Purpose: Recon
Mission Types: Strategic Recon
Aircraft: 4-8 Marauder Recons
Organization: 2-4 Flights/2-4 Elements/1 Aircraft

Supply Squadron
Primary Purpose: Transport
Mission Types: Tactical / Strategic / General / VIP Transport
Aircraft: 12-48 Arvus Lighters or Hast Transports
Organization: 2-4 Flights/2-4 Elements/1-4 Aircraft

VIP Squadron
Primary Purpose: Transport
Mission Types: Tactical / VIP / General Transport
Aircraft: 4-12 Arvus Lighters / Aquilas 0-24 Thunderbolts / Lightings
Organization: 2-4 Flights/2-4 Elements/1-4 Aircraft

Transport Squadron
Primary Purpose: Transport
Mission Types: Strategic / General Transport
Aircraft: 12-48 Arvus Lighters or Hast Transports
Organization: 2-4 Flights/2-4 Elements/1-4 Aircraft

This is only an overview of the most common and basic structure found throughout the the Emperor’s Imperial Navy Air Forces. There can be huge variation throughout the Air Forces and sometimes Imperial Guard Regiments full fill the same functions as the INAF wings. The Imperial Navy is a vast organization steeped in traditions dating back to the very formation of the Imperium and some of its structures are rare in the extreme, possibly only one in the entirety of the Emperor’s Imperial warmachine. It is up to the individual commander to determine what structures he actually needs to achieve success against the enemy.

Force Organizational ideas drawn from 20th and 21st century western air forces, primarily the RAF, USAAF, and USAF. I also drew on information regarding the Imperial Navy Air Wings in the Taros Campaign, from Imperial Armour 3: The Taros Campaign and what I remember from reading Double Eagle (I need to get a new copy eventually).

Original article by orangesm and can be found here
*used with permission

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