Electronic Attack Squadron [VAQ-129]
Electronic Attack Squadron One Two Nine, The Fighting Vikings, is the only EA-6B training squadron. The squadron's mission is to train all Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force aircrew that will fly in the Prowler, the world's premier tactical electronic warfare aircraft. It is based at NAS Whidbey Island, Washington, which is located at Puget Sound on Whidbey Island.
Tactical Electronic Attack Squadron 129 (VAQ-129) was redesignated from Heavy Attack Squadron 10 (VAH-10) on 1 September 1970 with CDR J. D. Blackwood as the new Commanding Officer. With a change in name, VAQ-129 also changed aircraft and missions. The old A-3 Skywarriors of VAH-10 were phased out as each detachment returned from deployment. The first EA-6B Standard version Prowler was delivered in January 1971, and with its arrival, VAQ-129 commenced its career as the training squadron for EA-6B fleet commands.
The training syllabus received a boost with the addition of an electronic warfare radar training site in the June 1971. The GPQT-6 Ground Trainer shortened the training syllabus by three weeks while providing electronic warfare site and Standard Anti-Radiation Missile training facilities for other squadrons based aboard NAS Whidbey Island.
In April 1973, the first Expanded Capability (EXCAP) version of the EA-6B and the first of the 15E22 series ground trainers arrived. The 15E22 is used to to train aircrews on system operations in a simulated threat environment.
In January 1977, the Navy introduced the first of its Improved Capability (ICAP) version Prowlers. With the advent of ICAP a second ground trainer, 15E22A, was built to assist in training Fleet Replacement Aircrews. In March, VAQ-129 began training United States Marine Corps maintenance and aircrew personnel to fly and maintain the ICAP version of the aircraft. The first Marine Corps pilot and Electronic Countermeasure Officer (ECMO) graduated from ICAP training 26 August 1977, which started a long training relationship with the Marine Corps. On 15 April, VAQ-129 graduated the first Navy ICAP class as VAQ-135 became the first fleet squadron to transition to ICAP. In June 1979, VAQ-129 was awarded the EA-6B Maintenance Squadron of the Year award by Grumman.
In February 1980, a tremendous leap in training capability was made with the introduction of the completely integrated four-seat 2F119 Weapons System trainer. This full motion based trainer revolutionized the training syllabus by providing a means of training four fleet replacement aircrew simultaneously in simulated combat environments. In 1984, the first ICAP II version of the EA-6B arrived. The Tactical AE-6B Mission Planning System (TEAMS) for mission support was accepted in May 1984 and the 15E22C trainer was in place by December in support of ICAP II transition training. The highly sophisticated 15E34A radar training site replaced the GPQT-6 in April 1986, significantly enhancing the electronic warfare training environment at NAS Whidbey Island. The Vikings earned the "Meritorious Unit Commendation" for fiscal year 1984 and was awarded the CNO Safety "S" for 1986 and 1987.
The Vikings introduced the AGM-88A High Speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM) on the EA-6B in 1987. In 1988 they introduced the new "Block 86" version of the ICAP II Prowler. Since July 1990, improvements have continued to be made to the training syllabus. The 2F143 and 2F119A flight simulators received final acceptance and VMAQ-4 fully transitioned to the EA-6B. Extensive operational and maintenance support was provided to deploying units in support of Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Viking instructors were deployed to the Persian Gulf to provide squadrons with an updated HARM capability which proved tremendously successful in subsequent combat during Operations Desert Storm. The Vikings coordinated the memorable return of eight A-6 and EA-6B squadrons from combat deployment , with VAQ-141 arriving last on 27 June 1991.
In August 1992, the Executive Officer's billet was assumed by a USMC Lieutenant Colonel, further strengthening VAQ-129's relationship with the Marine Corps. The Vikings earned the Meritorious Unit Commendation for 1993-1994, were selected COMVAQWINGPAC Prowler Maintenance Squadron of the Year for 1994, and were awarded the Foreign Object Damage Prevention Excellence Award in 1995. To date the squadron has flown a record 832 days without a FOD incident. The squadron is currently training 70 USN, USMC and USAF replacement pilots and electronic countermeasure officers. Fiscal year 1996 saw a 20 percent increase in student training to support five additional standup EA-6B squadrons. The standup is the result of the retirement of the Air Force EF-111, making the EA-6B the only tactical aircraft in the U. S. inventory capable of performing electronic combat. This signaled and even greater role for the Prowler for years to come.
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