Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron [VAW-117]
The squadron was established at NAS North Island, CA on 1 July 1974 as part of Fighter Airborne Early Warning Wing, U. S. Pacific Fleet. After receiving its first E-2B aircraft in October 1974, the squadron deployed to the Mediterranean Sea on board the USS Independence (CV 62) in October of 1975. The squadron made its first Western Pacific (WestPac) deployment with Carrier Air Wing TWO on board the USS Ranger (CV 61) in February 1979.
The year 1981 found the Wallbangers joining Carrier Air Wing Eleven for WestPac on board the USS Enterprise (CVN 65) and won the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Safety Award. The Wallbangers were also the Commander, Naval Air Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet's nominee for the Airborne Early Warning Excellence Award. After winning the 1983 CNO Safety Award and the Battle "E", VAW-117 deployed again on the Enterprise for WESTPAC 1984. Due in part to compiling a West Coast record of over 2,000 flight hours in 1984, the Wallbangers captured the first ever triple crown of the west coast AEW community by winning the 1984 CNO Safety Award, Battle "E", and AEW Excellence Award.
In February 1985, the Wallbangers were awarded their second consecutive CNO Safety Award. That June, the Wallbangers were the first West Coast E-2 squadron in six years to be awarded the Airborne Early Warning Excellence Award.
During the 1988 WestPac onboard the USS Enterprise, VAW-117 played a key role in "Operation Praying Mantis" during which an Iranian ship was destroyed. In addition, the Wallbangers excelled in providing command and control during the attacks on oil platforms and small ships.
The Wallbangers departed in mid-September 1989 for World Cruise 89-90 which was the final cruise of the USS Enterprise and Carrier Air Wing ELEVEN team. During the cruise, the Bangers participated in "Pacific Exercise 1989", which was the largest naval exercise since World War Two. During the exercise, the Wallbangers flew an impressive 503 flight hours in a single month, breaking all E-2 squadron flight records. While winning another Battle "E", VAW-117 was awarded the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal for participation in "Operation Earnest Will".
In 1990, the Wallbangers transitioned to the Grumman E-2C Plus and participated in a joint US/Canadian exercise called "Maple Flag 1990" in Canadian Air Force Base Cold Lake, Alberta, Canada, before joining the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) for her maiden voyage around South America. This was the first operational deployment of the E-2C (Plus) aircraft and served as the operational test and evaluation for this aircraft. The onset of "Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm" led to the most accelerated turn around training cycle ever. Onboard the USS Abraham Lincoln's maiden WestPac Voyage in May of 1991, VAW-117 assisted in the evacuation of dependents from the Philippines after the eruption of Mount Pinatubo during "Operation Fiery Vigil". The Wallbangers were awarded the Joint Meritorious Unit Award, for their efforts in assisting in the evacuation. During their tenure in the Arabian Gulf, the Wallbangers maintained 100 percent of their assigned tasking, flying over 900 operational hours, even though the hostilities with Iraq had ceased.
Returning from "Operation Southern Watch", in November of 1991. VAW-117 deployed to Panama in support of counter-narcotics operations before starting work ups for WestPac 1993. While on WestPac 1993, the Bangers accumulated 1,750 flight hours in support of "Operation Southern Watch". On 28 July 1993, VAW-117 Wallbangers reached sixteen years and 36,700 flight hours mishap free. In October on 1993, the Wallbangers were called to provided air traffic control services for over 400 aircraft daily while supporting "Operation Restore Hope" in Somalia. For its effort in 1993, VAW-117 again won the coveted AEW triple crown.
Upgrading to the Grumman E-2C Group II in 1994, the Wallbangers participated in "Roving Sands 1994", the premiere Department of Defense exercise. In October of 1994, the Banger maintenance department received a grade of "Overall Outstanding" on the Aircraft Maintenance Evaluation, thereby establishing the Wallbanger Maintenance Department as the best of any squadron on the west coast. In April of 1995 the Wallbangers departed for WestPac 1995 with Carrier Air Wing Eleven on the Lincoln. That same month the Bangers were awarded the coveted PriceFighter Award given to the command demonstrating outstanding fiscal responsibility. The Wallbangers returned to San Diego after three months of participation in "Operation Southern Watch" and immediately began preparations for their next deployment. 1995 was the most successful year in the 22 years of Wallbanger history. Besides the "PriceFighter Award", the Bangers earned the 1995 Battle "E", the 1995 Grandpaw Pettibone Award, the Secretary of Defense Maintenance Award, the CNO Airborne Early Warning Excellence Award, and the Energy Conservation Award. A one-year turnaround put VAW-117 on deployment again in October 1996 on board the USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) for another WestPac cruise.
During the WestPac 1997 cruise, the Wallbangers had the unique opportunity to fly with the Pakistani Air Force in an exercise dubbed '"Inspired Alert". "Inspired Alert" was a series of overland power projection strikes coupled with joint air combat maneuvering scenarios in which the Wallbangers provided the essential link from strike planning, Command, Control and Communication, (also known as C3), to all fighter close control.
After returning from WestPac in April of 1997, VAW-117 was deployed to the Naval Station Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico in support of the Joint Inter-Agency Task Force-East (JIATF-East) "War on Drugs". The mission for the Hawkeye in Puerto Rico was the early detection and identification of unknown, unregistered aircraft or surface vessels and then alerting the U.S. Coast Guard or Customs Service of their presence. Although many unknown contacts were identified, no pursuit or "end game" resulted.
After Puerto Rico, the Wallbangers participated in the All Services Combat Identification and Evaluation Team (ASCIET) in Biloxi, Mississippi. This exercise was designed to bring Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps together in an attempt to evaluate the military's Joint Tactical Information Distribution System. (JTIDS) in a real time environment over a period of several days. The evaluation incorporated land-based, Patriot/I-Hawk batteries and airborne Air Force F-15's and F-16's for over land engagements and F-14's, F-15's and the USS CAPE ST. GEORGE (CG 71) for the over water scenarios. Of course, the mighty Hawkeye was the glue that kept the entire exercise together combining her long-range control with her communications relay abilities.
In October of 1997, the Wallbangers bid the USS KITTY HAWK (CV 63) farewell and ushered in a new era for VAW-117 by joining the USS CARL VINSON (CVN 70). In all, during 1997, VAW-117 completed another post cruise abbreviated turnaround, flying 442 sorties for a total of 1,335 mishap free flight hours. In addition, in 1997 the Wallbangers were awarded several awards including the Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet, Price Fighter Award, (Third Consecutive); CNO Safety "S"; and the Commander, Airborne Early Warning Wing, U.S. Pacific Fleet Quarterly Safety Award. Lastly in 1997, the Wallbangers dedication to safety allowed them to surpass a major milestone of over 20 years and 44,000 hours of mishap free flying.
The Wallbangers were busy preparing for the upcoming Western Pacific and Arabian Gulf deployment in 1998. Notably, the Bangers participated in the RIMPAC 98 exercise with the US Air Force and several foreign naval services. The CNO awarded VAW-117 with both the Grandpaw Pettibone Award and the Price Fighter Award for FY97 which further demonstrates the squadron's commitment to safety and a dedication to doing things the right way everytime. At the completion of the turnaround cycle, the Wallbangers were part of another milestone as they took on the informal title of the "last operational Navy Squadron at (once 'Fightertown') Miramar" after leaving for the last time on deployment. The squadron flew 665 sorties and amassed over 1716 mishap free flight hours in 1998.
During WestPac 1998/1999 the Wallbangers won acclaim from not only the Air Wing, but also Joint and combined forces for their outstanding command and control efforts on more than 97 sorties, which included 27 combat missions in support of OPERATION SOUTHERN WATCH (OSW) and OPERATION DESERT FOX (ODF). In addition, VAW-117 also participated in exercises NAUTICAL ARTIST, NEON FALCON, EAGER ARCHER and GULFEX 99 with various Arabian Gulf states, the United States Air Force, and the British Royal Navy. Several Bangers had the unique opportunity to participate in an informative British officer exchange program with the 849 Squadron 'A' Flight "AARDVARKS" onboard the HMS INVINCIBLE. All the participants gained a healthy respect for the capabilities of their British counterparts.
Upon completion of WESTPAC 98/99, VAW-117 rejoined the remaining West Coast E-2C Squadron's at NAS Point Mugu, CA. After firmly setting up their new home in Point Mugu, the Wallbangers departed in September of 1999 to participate in Counter Narcotics Operations, with the joint task forces in the Caribbean. The Wallbangers not only provided excellent early warning and detection against Drug Traffickers, but also demonstrated the newest E-2C to the world. The Mission Computer Upgrade and Advanced Control Interface Set (MCU/ACIS) proved itself to be a giant leap forward for the Airborne Early Warning, and Command and Control Community. The Wallbangers took on the challenge of stopping the flow of drugs into the US with such devotion that they achieved 98% mission completion rate.
The Wallbangers began the new millennium by participating in Exercise Desert Rescue at NAS Fallon, Nevada. This All Forces Exercise is conducted annually to review tactics and sharpen the skills of U.S. Forces in the execution of Combat Search and Rescue. VAW-117 flawlessly fulfilled their role as Airborne Mission Commander in the demanding environment of the Fallon Range Complex. Providing mission critical command, control and communication, the Wallbangers aggressive crews were the cornerstones of mission success.
The Squadron again took flight in February of 2000 to support the All Services Combat Identification and Evaluation Testing (ASCIET) in Savannah, Ga. The Wallbangers rounded out an impressive line up of Command and Control assets, and offered the flexibility to the exercise that only the E-2C Hawkeye can provide. Correlating data from on and off-board sensors, the Wallbangers consistently positively identified exercise hostile aircraft and successfully controlled U.S. and allied fighters achieving hostile aircraft kills well outside threat ranges. In the course of the exercise the Wallbangers further tested the worlds newest command and control aircraft, E-2C MCU/ACIS, in the robust data link architecture provided by this large Joint Forces exercise. VAW-117 again proved to U.S. and Allied Forces the tremendous tactical acumen of squadron aircrews and the unmatched capabilities of the E-2C MCU/ACIS aircraft.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|