Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron [VAW-125]
VAW-125, known as the "Torchbearers" or "Tigertails," was commissioned on October 1, 1968, at Naval Air Station, Norfolk. The squadron's first sea duty was in the Caribbean with Carrier Air Wing Three aboard the USS Saratoga (CV 60). Following the Caribbean work-up cycle, the squadron left on its first major deployment to the Mediterranean Sea, in July 1969. Upon their return form cruise, VAW-125 became the first East Coast squadron to take delivery of the new E2-B "Hawkeye".
VAW-125 made several Mediterranean Sea deployments as part of Carrier Air Wing One aboard USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67) in the early 1970's. In 1975, VAW-125 deployed with the newest version of the Hawkeye, the E-2C.
In December of 1976, Vice Admiral Greed, COMNAVAIRLANT, presented VAW-125 with the COMNAVAIRLANT Battle "E" for readiness, the CINCLANTFLT "Golden Anchor" Award for career retention, and the CNO Safety "S" Award. VAW-125 is believed to be the first Navy unit to win all three awards in the same year.
In late 1977, and early 1978, the Tigertails were once again selected to operationally test and evaluate the newest version of the E-2C, the Advanced Radar Processing System (ARPS). In June of 1978, VAW-125 took ARPS to sea for the first time.
In June of 1979, the Tigertails joined Carrier Air Wing Seventeen and began work-ups aboard USS Forrestal (CV 59) in preparation for another Mediterranean Sea Deployment. On November 27, 1979, the squadron left for its eighth deployment and its first aboard the USS Forrestal.
While deployed in August 1981, VAW-125 took part in Central Mediterranean Operations resulting in downing two Libyan MiG's after attack on Battle Group CAP aircraft.
The Tigertails were presented with a unique opportunity in November 1981, when they were selected to provide range control services for the second launch of the NASA space shuttle, STS-2. Enthusiastically, the Tigertails traveled to Florida to participate in this historic event. Simultaneously, VAW-125 was taking part in the first E-2C counter-narcotics operation, Operation THUNDERBOLT.
In May 1983, Carrier Air Wing Seventeen joined USS Saratoga for her post SLEP shakedown cruise in preparation for an upcoming Mediterranean Sea deployment. During work-ups, the squadron took three new TRAC-A E-2Cs to Fallon, Nevada for testing of the APS-138 radar and the ALR passive detection system in an overland environment.
While on routine deployment in October 1985, the Tigertails played an instrumental role in the successful interception of the Egyptian airliner carrying the hijackes of the Italian cruise ship Achilles Lauro. From January through March 1986, the squadron participated in "Freedom of Navigation" operations off the coast of Libya.
After a successful deployment concluding in November 1987, the Tigertails were selected to embark aboard USS Independence (CV 62) for the "Around the Horn" cruise to San Diego, California in August 1988.
In August of 1990, the Tigertails were ready for deployment and responded to the invasion of Kuwait by deploying for eight months to the Red Sea with Carrier Air Wing Seventeen aboard USS Saratoga. After transiting in record time, they took up station and started flying around the clock in the support of Operation DESERT SHIELD. During Operation DESERT STORM, VAW-125 flew over 890 combat hours controlling strikes on Iraqi targets while providing AEW coverage for the Red Sea Battle Group. The Tigertails controlled VFA-81 F/A-18's in the 17 January 1991 shoot down of two Iraqi MiG-21's - the only Navy air-to-air MiG kills of the Southwest Asia campaign.
In May 1992, the Tigertails deployed to the Mediterranean Sea aboard USS Saratoga (CV 60) for MED 2-92. During this cruise, the squadron was involved in several exercises in Europe and supported United Nations' relief efforts during Operation PROVIDE PROMISE in former Yugoslavia. In recognition of the their achievements during this deployment, VAW-125 received the 1992 Battle "E" and CNO Safety "S" Award.
In January of 1994, the Tigertails deployed aboard USS Saratoga for another Mediterranean Cruise. This marked the twenty-second and final cruise of USS Saratoga. During the deployment, the Tigertails and Carrier Air Wing Seventeen joined NATO forces flying in support of Operations DENY FLIGHT and PROVIDE PROMISE. They provided airspace surveillance and control over Bosnia-Herzegovina enforcing the UN-mandated no fly zone. The Tigertails conducted operational tests with the Navy's newest Mini DAMA Satellite Communication Suite Prototype System. Using this new system, the Tigertails, for the first time, functioned as Airborne Battlefield Command Control Center (ABCCC), a task normally performed by a crew of twelve aboard an Air Force EC-130.
With the decommissioning of USS Saratoga, VAW-125 and Carrier Air Wing Seventeen joined USS Enterprise (CVN 65). After completing a two month assignment at Naval Station Roosevelt Roads in support of Joint Inter-Agency Task Force, East, Counter-Narcotics operations in the Caribbean Sea, the Tigertails deployed to the Mediterranean sea aboard USS Enterprise in June, 1996. As always, the Tigertails set the standard early during this cruise by earning the Carrier Air Wing Seventeen "Top Hook" award for carrier landings. In July 1996, Tigertails again joined NATO forces in former Yugoslavia, this time in support of Operation JOINT ENDEAVOR.
In September 1996, the Tigertails again responded to mounting tensions in Southwest Asia, transiting the Adriatic and Red Seas at record breaking pace. Supporting Operation SOUTHERN WATCH, the Tigertails flew countless sorties from the Arabian Gulf for three months, playing a vital role in the enforcement of the southern Iraqi no fly zone. In recognition of all the squadron's outstanding accomplishments in 1996, VAW-125 was presented the Battle "E", CNO Safety "S", and the prestigious AEW Excellence Award.
In March 1997, the Tigertails and Carrier Air Wing Seventeen joined COMCRUDESGRU EIGHT and were assigned to the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). Almost immediately the Tigertails began work-ups in anticipation of a Mediterranean cruise in the spring of 1998. Deploying in June 1998, the Tigertails supported Operation SOUTHERN WATCH in the Arabian Gulf and Operation DELIBERATE FORCE in the Adriatic Sea.
In January 1999, the Tigertails and Carrier Air Wing Seventeen joined COMGRUDESGRU TWO and were assigned to the USS George Washington (CVN 73) Battle Group. In early June 1999, the Tigertails returned from a highly successful two-month Counter-Drug deployment to Naval Air Station Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico. The Tigertails proudly participated in the maritime intercept, boarding, and subsequent seizure and arrest of the motor vessels "Castor" and "China Breeze". The combined drug seizure was in excess of 20,000 pounds of cocaine, the largest Atlantic seizure in the Seventh District Coast Guard history during any fiscal year.
In the summer of 1999, the Tigertails transitioned to the E-2C Group II (Nav Upgrade) airframe. This transition required formal training for pilots, NFOs and maintainers; the Tigertails completed this transition in only two months while concurrently fulfilling all operational tasking, which included two SFARP detachments, North Carolina SAR missions, two CNO Special Projects in Joint Tactical Information Data System (JTIDS) exercises, and multiple GWBATGRU Missilexs.
The Tigertails have surpassed an incredible 32-year Class "A" mishap-free milestone with over 64,000 flight hours. The Tigertails have just completed a six month deployment with the USS George Washington Battle Group, playing a vital role in Operation SOUTHERN WATCH, JOINT FORGE/JOINT GUARDIAN as well as NATO Exercise DESTINED GLORY 2000.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|