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Electronic Attack Squadron [VAQ-134]

Navy squadron VAQ-128 is one of four Expeditionary Squadrons in the Navy utilizing the Air Force's tactical experience that is extremely useful in an environment like Operation Northern Watch or Southern Watch to provide a secure air umbrella in the skies above Northern Iraq. By integrating Air Force pilots and electronic countermeasure officers who were once being employed in aircraft such as the F-4G and the EF-111 into the Navy's EA-6B Prowler, the Navy and Air Force have an effective enemy air suppression team capable of protecting coalition assets in any contingency. While assigned to Naval flying units, Air Force pilots and ECMOs are on a three-year controlled tour. During that three years, each aviator attends the same yearlong school as his or her Naval counterpart. Upon completion of flight training, the aviator then spends two years in an EA-6B flying squadron. Traditionally, Naval aviation operations have been geared toward projecting their forces from the sea. Although the EA-6Bs of VAQ-128 can easily operate aboard ship, Operation Northern Watch dictates that they operate from a land-based airfield.

VAQ-134 was originally commissioned on 7 June 1969 at NAS Alameda, California as the GARUDAS. Based on an old Hindu myth, the Garuda is the bird that took Wisnu, the God of War, wherever necessary in his quest to protect God's creation from those evil forces that sought to upset and destroy it. The Garudas, flying the EA-3B "Skywarriors," won the Pacific Fleet Battle "E" for combat efficiency in 1969 and 1971. After decommissioning in late 1971, the Garudas were reactivated as an EA-6B "Prowler" squadron in 1972 as the third Navy Prowler squadron, and moved their homeport to NAS Whidbey Island, Washington. Assigned to USS CONSTELLATION (CV 64) with Carrier Air Wing NINE, they embarked on their first deployment with the new EA-6Bs to the Western Pacific (WESTPAC) on 5 January 1973, just prior to the termination of hostilities in Vietnam. Upon their return in October 1973, the squadron transitioned to the Expanded Capability (EXCAP) version of the EA-6B.

Transition to the EXCAP EA-6B was followed by a Mediterranean cruise in USS FORRESTAL (CV 59) with Carrier Air Wing SEVENTEEN. The squadron departed on 2 March 1975 and after returning on 22 September 1975 participated in testing of the AEGIS weapon system. On 30 July 1976, VAQ-134 deployed in USS ENTERPRISE (CVN 65) with Carrier Air Wing FOURTEEN for another WESTPAC cruise, returning on 28 March 1977.

The GARUDAS then transitioned to the Improved Capability (ICAP) version of the EA-6B and in September 1977 received the Pacific Fleet Battle "E." On 4 April 1978, the GARUDAS deployed once again in USS ENTERPRISE (CVN 65) covering both the Western Pacific (WESTPAC) and Indian Ocean before returning on 30 October 1978. In March 1979, the GARUDAS were awarded the Pacific Fleet Battle "E" for the second consecutive year.

Once again, the GARUDAS made another Mediterranean cruise, this time in USS NIMITZ (CVN 68) with Carrier Air Wing EIGHT. The USS NIMITZ arrived in Norfolk, Virginia on 26 May 1980 after 144 consecutive days at sea. Later that year, on 16 December, the GARUDAS celebrated 10 years of mishap free flying.

The GARUDAS deployed again, this time in USS CONSTELLATION (CV 64) with Carrier Air Wing NINE for an extended WESTPAC/Indian Ocean cruise. In May 1982 the squadron took part in the first triple battle group operation, READIEX-82, with carriers USS MIDWAY (CV 41) and USS RANGER (CV 60). On 23 May 1982, the squadron returned to Whidbey Island.

VAQ-134 joined Carrier Air Wing FIFTEEN in September 1982 and deployed from Norfolk, Virginia on 1 March 1983 in USS CARL VINSON (CVN 70) for an around the world cruise. The cruise included over 120 days in the Indian Ocean and ended 29 October 1983. Workups began four months later and the squadron left NAS Alameda on 13 October 1984 for a WESTPAC/Indian Ocean deployment in USS CARL VINSON (CVN 70). They returned to Whidbey Island on 24 May 1985 after 107 consecutive days in the Indian Ocean and were awarded their fifth Pacific Fleet Battle "E" for 1984 as well as the coveted "Admiral Arthur W. Radford Award" for Electronic Warfare excellence.

Workups began for the GARUDAS in preparation for an August 1986 WESTPAC/Indian Ocean deployment in USS CARL VINSON (CVN 70). In December 1985 they surpassed 15 years of mishap free operations and on 12 August 1986 deployed once again for the WESTPAC. As a member of the Carrier Air Wing FIFTEEN/USS CARL VINSON team, VAQ-134 was part of the first battle group to operate in the Bering Sea during the winter. They returned to Whidbey Island on 3 February 1987 and were awarded the annual Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Aviation Safety "S" Award for 1986.

Their eighth WESTPAC deployment, which included operations in the Persian Gulf to support vital convoy escort missions, began in June 1988. The GARUDAS returned to Whidbey Island on 14 December 1988 and were awarded their second CNO Aviation Safety "S" Award. They transitioned to the ICAP II version of the EA-6B during the early part of 1989.

Following the transition to ICAP II, the GARUDAS began workups in USS CARL VINSON (CVN 70) in preparation for another WESTPAC/Indian Ocean deployment. From 6 September to 7 November, they took part in PACEX '89, which was the largest fleet exercise since World War II. It was during PACEX that the GARUDAS became the first EA-6B squadron to launch a High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM) from a carrier deployed Prowler.

Having been embarked in USS CARL VINSON (CVN 70) for their ninth WESTPAC and sixth Indian Ocean deployment, the GARUDAS returned to Whidbey Island 29 July 1990 just one week before the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. In January 1991, they flew as the leading Electronic Combat asset in RED FLAG at Nellis Air Force Base. During Operations DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM, VAQ-134 became the Navy's largest fleet EA-6B squadron, flying and maintaining up to nine Prowlers.

Leaving Whidbey Island in October 1991 to take USS KITTY HAWK (CV 63) "Around the Horn" from Norfolk to San Diego, GARUDA pilots outperformed all other Carrier Air Wing FIFTEEN aviators and earned the coveted "Top Hook" award for best landing grades. The GARUDAS returned to NAS Whidbey Island on 11 December 1991.

During workups for another WESTPAC/Indian Ocean deployment, the GARUDAS participated in RIMPAC '92 in USS KITTY HAWK (CV 63) alongside units from many countries including Japan and Australia. In July 1992 they participated in TANDEM THRUST, a joint operation with the U.S. Air Force. On 3 November 1992 the GARUDAS deployed in USS KITTY HAWK (CV 63). This was KITTY HAWK's first full deployment in over five years.

VAQ-134 led combat missions in support of US Central Command's Operation SOUTHERN WATCH on the 13th and 18th of January 1993. GARUDA EA-6Bs launched AGM-88 HARM against strategic surface to air missile sites in the Southern Iraq's "no-fly zone," marking the first time a GARUDA aircraft fired a HARM in combat.

The squadron left for yet another WESTPAC deployment in June 1994 sailing in USS KITTY HAWK (CV 63) to the Western Pacific Ocean, Sea of Japan and Yellow Sea where they participated in exercises such as KEEN EDGE, ANNUAL EX and TANDEM THRUST. They celebrated yet another milestone as they logged over 34,000 hours and 24 years of mishap free flight operations on 17 December. The GARUDAS returned to NAS Whidbey Island on 22 December 1994 where they were awarded the Pacific Fleet Battle "E" Award and the prestigious CNO Radford Award.

Originally scheduled to decommission in March 1995, the GARUDAS were once again called on to defend the flag in a new role as an expeditionary squadron supporting USAF Expeditionary Composite Wings, replacing the U.S. Air Force's EF-111 Raven in shore based arenas. They accepted five aircraft and were ready for deployment within eight months of stand-up, despite a turnover of 80% of all squadron personnel.

In May 1996, VAQ-134 deployed to Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Iwakuni, Japan. While on deployment they participated in exercises such as COPE JADE, FOAL EAGLE, and Large Force Exercises. When they returned to NAS Whidbey Island on 15 November 1996, the squadron celebrated 26 years and over 36,300 mishap free flight hours and were awarded their seventh Battle "E" Award.

The GARUDAS spent most of 1997 training and honing their skills in preparation for deployment to Incirlik Air Base, Turkey to support Operation NORTHERN WATCH. Along with unit level training in the Whidbey Island area, the squadron also conducted operations with units from Great Britain, Canada, Germany, and Spain, as well as the USAF at GREEN FLAG, MAPLE FLAG, RED FLAG and COPE THUNDER exercises. On 14 January the GARUDAS fired a HARM at NAWC China Lake, CA. Although the squadron is an expeditionary squadron based ashore, it continued to conduct carrier qualifications aboard USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) in March and October. In November the squadron was awarded their fourth Meritorious Unit Commendation for their performance from the recommissioning of the squadron through their deployment to MCAS Iwakuni, Japan eight months later. In December the GARUDAS became the first EA-6B expeditionary squadron to deploy in support of a USAF/Coalition Combined Task Force when it began a six-month deployment to Incirlik AB, Turkey. The squadron was the only Navy participant in the coalition of American, British and Turkish forces conducting Operation Northern Watch (ONW). On 16 December, the squadron was awarded their fourth CNO Aviation Safety "S" award.

In June 1998, the GARUDAS returned to Whidbey Island after their highly successful deployment. During the six-month deployment, they completed over 300 ONW sorties, accumulating over 1,200 flight hours with an astounding 100% sortie completion rate. The GARUDAS were awarded their second Joint Meritorious Unit award for this period. After a short break, the GARUDAS began preparing and training for their next deployment in late July. Unit level training was conducted around Whidbey Island and at NAS Fallon, Nevada incorporating the Prowler Weapons and Tactics Program (PWTP). The PWTP training culminated with a joint Large Force Exercise with various Air Force units at Red Flag in October.

The year 1999 started with carrier qualifications aboard the USS Lincoln (CVN 72). The squadron then detached to NAWC China Lake for the EA-6B SSA 5.2 software testing. This detachment was cut short because the GARUDAS were needed in Aviano, Italy where tensions were mounting in the Former Republic of Yugoslavia. Negotiations were convened to settle the conflict peacefully, so after two weeks in Italy, the squadron returned to Whidbey Island. Two weeks after that, the peace talks failed and the GARUDAS were redeployed to Italy to support Operation ALLIED FORCE (OAF), arriving there the first day of the conflict.

VAQ-134 had been flying missions for just a few days during Operation Allied Force when they received word that someone had been shot down in enemy territory. This meant Prowlers were needed on station immediately to aid the combat search and rescue (CSAR) mission. Garuda jets were turning, taxiing and taking off within minutes. They went out to the operations area, not sure what to expect, bringing the best in electronic combat to the task. It was late and people were tired, but this is the kind of effort aircrew and maintainers are eager to make. For the eight Garuda aviators, the plan was simple-provide jamming where and when it was needed, and use a High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM) if anything got in the way. They did both, firing the first Prowler HARM in Operation Allied Force, with another quickly following. They successfully suppressed the enemy air defenses from reaching out and touching the CSAR team, enabling them to rescue the downed F-117 pilot and bring him safely home.

The five-week deployment earned the squadron the Navy Unit Commendation award for maintaining a 100% sortie completion rate. At the end of June, the GARUDAS were off again to support Operation NORTHERN WATCH, returning three months later in September having earned the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal. VAQ-134's outstanding performance throughout the year earned them their eighth Battle "E" and fifth CNO Safety "S."

The year 2000 proved busy, demanding and rewarding for the GARUDAS. The squadron detached to Cold Lake, Canada, where Electronic Warfare support was provided to Canadian Fighter Weapons School CF-18s. From there, the squadron departed to NAS Jacksonville, Florida, to provide support for the All Services Combat Identification Evaluation Team (ASCIET) in which the Prowler was used to test and develop tactics for the identification of red and blue air forces in a simulated combat environment. NAS Point Mugu, California, was the next destination for the Garudas where radar testing versus shipboard radar was completed and proficiency in HARM employment tactics were furthered. Prior to deployment, VAQ-134 detached to Mountain Home AFB to participate in the first USAF Operational Readiness Assessment to include a Navy squadron. The Garudas then deployed to Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia in support of Operation SOUTHERN WATCH from July to September 2000. In November 2000, the GARUDAS detached to Holloman AFB, New Mexico to participate in the Joint Global Positioning System Combat Evaluation where the effects of jamming were tested against Global Positioning Systems. The final detachment of the year was to NAF El Centro, California, where the Garudas conducted unit level training in the low-level environment. 2000 proved to be another banner year for safety in VAQ-134 when the squadron achieved 43,000 mishap-free flight hours, the best record for any fleet EA-6B squadron.

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