From early 1944 the Fast Carrier Task Force, made up of several task groups typically built around four aircraft carriers and their support vessels, was the main US strike force in the Pacific Ocean. The Carrier Force worked in conjunction with amphibious forces and the US marines to provide devastating attack capabilities. In 1944 the US Pacific Fleet was on the offensive, driving systematically westwards over a distance of 1,830 miles (2,945 km) and reaching the Mariana Islands, within bombing range of Japan’s major cities. From the Bismarck Sea naval operations thrust northwestwards towards the Philippines. Although US carriers had a more limited range than their Japanese counterparts, they more than compensated for their disadvantage with enhanced defensive capabilities, in particular radar, which was vital for surprise attacks in carrier warfare. Improved long-range anti-aircraft fire was also a factor in downing Japanese aeroplanes. The battles of the Philippines Sea in June 1944 and Leyte Gulf in October 1944 effectively destroyed Japanese naval aviation.
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