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Patrol Squadron FOUR [VP-4]
"Skinny Dragons"

With the introduction of the new Anti-Surface Warfare Improvement Program (AIP), the way Patrol Squadron FOUR (VP-4) conducts business in the P-3 has changed drastically. The improved avionics package for the P-3C Orion adopted by the Navy in the mid-1990s enables mission expansion into arenas not explored previously.

Re-commissioned in July 1943 as VP-144, after losing all but one aircraft in the Philippines Defense Campaign, VP-4 re-entered World War II with vastly improved fortunes. At the end of Pacific hostilities, the squadron emerged as Patrol Squadron FOUR and moved to a new home base in Whidbey Island, Washington. After transitioning to P-2V Neptunes in 1947, VP-4 conducted an aerial photographic survey of Southeastern Alaska from Annette Island and began regular visits to pacific deployment sites. Naha, Okinawa became the new homeport of VP-4 in 1956. From this base, the squadron flew reconnaissance and ASW coverage to counter the Communist Chinese threat to the islands of Matsu and Quemoy. In 1964 the squadron completed four years of unequaled operational excellence that resulted in three COMNAVAIRPAC Battle Efficiency "E" Awards, three CNO Safety Awards, and four Arnold J. Isbell ASW Awards. Having returned to their original home of Hawaii, VP-4 began transitioning from the P-2V Neptune to the P-3A Orion in 1966. The "Skinny Dragons" went on to participate in the 1968 RIMPAC Exercise with representative squadrons from Australia, New Zealand, and Japan.

During a subsequent deployment in 1972 to Cubi Point, Republic of the Philippines, VP-4 was awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation for its effort during operations "Market Time" and "Yankee Station."

During the 1975 deployment to Cubi Point, VP-4 participated in the evacuation of South Vietnam and the "Mayaguez" recovery operations. 1976 saw detachment operations to NAS Agana, Guam during which the squadron participated in Australia's Kangaroo II fleet exercise.

In July 1978, the "Skinny Dragons" assumed the Guam Detachment and simultaneously conducted operations that stretched around the world from Cubi Point to Barbers Point, Moffett Field, Brunswick, and Sigonella. Patrol Squadron FOUR finished transitioning to the P-3B (MOD), or "SUPER BEE" in May 1979. The squadron then started a work up period for its next Cubi Point deployment, which began in November 1979.

In May 1980, VP-4 returned from a very productive six-month Cubi Point deployment with a detachment in Diego Garcia, British Indian Ocean Territory. In February 1984, Patrol Squadron FOUR commenced transitioning to P-3C aircraft and had the honor of becoming the first P-3C squadron at NAS Barbers Point, Hawaii.

VP-4 became the first Barbers Point squadron to deploy to Diego Garcia in January 1985. The squadron concluded this remarkable deployment by surpassing over 100,000 hours of mishap free flying.

In June 1986, the "Skinny Dragons" deployed to remote Adak, Alaska; the first Barbers Point squadron to do so. In November 1987, the "Skinny Dragons" again deployed to Cubi Point. During 1987 VP-4 earned the Golden Anchor Award and the Battle "E" Award.

1988 saw the "Skinny Dragons" return to Hawaiian waters, where they participated in numerous exercises, including RIMPAC and READIEX. The highlight of the year was receiving their second consecutive Golden Orion and Golden Anchor Awards for retention, an unprecedented accomplishment for a deployable pacific squadron.

1989 saw the "Skinny Dragons" complete a highly successful deployment to Adak, Alaska. While in Adak, VP-4 conducted numerous ASW operations and participated in PACEX-89, the largest Naval exercise since World War II.

Deploying to Diego Garcia in November 1990, the "Skinny Dragons" quickly established a detachment in Masirah, Oman to enforce the UN embargo against Iraq during Operation DESERT SHIELD. By early January 1991, 179 missions had challenged 3,669 merchant vessels. The embargo gave way to Battle Force Protection as war was declared on 17 January 1991.

Flying 279 combat missions and 2,779 flight hours in the Arabian Gulf in support of Operations DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM, the "Skinny Dragons" provided detection and targeting, resulting in the total destruction of the Iraqi Navy.

In the fall of 1991 Patrol Squadron FOUR transitioned to the newest P-3C model, the Update III. In 1992, VP-4 once again deployed to Diego Garcia, B.I.O.T. with permanent detachments in Masirah, Oman and Kadena AB, Okinawa. Deployed from May-November 1992, VP-4 resumed missions in support of Operation DESERT STORM and successfully conducted numerous multinational exercises and independent operations. Upon returning home to Hawaii, Patrol Squadron FOUR learned that it had again received the Golden Anchor and the COMPATWINGSPAC Golden Orion for retention excellence.

In November 1993, VP-4 deployed to Misawa AB, Japan, and established a permanent detachment in Kadena, Okinawa. While on deployment, Patrol Squadron FOUR received the 1993 Chief of Naval Operations Aviation Safety Award for a Pacific Fleet Maritime Patrol Squadron, the Commander Seventh Fleet Award and the Captain Arnold Jay Isbell Trophy, both for Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) excellence.

After completing a challenging at home training cycle, Patrol Squadron FOUR again received the 1994 Chief of Naval Operations Aviation Safety Award. In November 1995, VP-4 conducted a split-site deployment to Misawa AB, Japan and Kadena, Okinawa, fully integrating into COMSEVENTHFLT operations. During this deployment the squadron flew around the clock for seventeen straight days during the PRC-Taiwan Crisis in support of both the Nimitz and Independence Battlegroups.

After a highly successful deployment, the "Skinny Dragons" continued down the path of excellence, immediately jumping into RIMPAC '96 and conducting a flawless Harpoon shot.

In early 1997, VP-4 again set the West Coast standard with outstanding results on the Mining Readiness Certification Inspection, the Aviation Maintenance Evaluation (AME), the Conventional Weapons Technical Proficiency Inspection (CWTPI) and the Operational Readiness Evaluation (ORE). In addition, the squadron performed superbly during the first ever detachment operations from Point Mugu, CA while supporting the Constellation Battlegroup and Boxer ARG in JTFEX 97-1. In recognition of their superb performance, the Skinny Dragons were awarded the CNO Safety Award and the Battle Efficiency "E" award in March 1997.

From May to December 1997, VP-4 completed a quad-site deployment to Diego Garcia, Masirah, Bahrain, and Kadena. While on deployment the Skinny Dragons flew over 5,600 mishap free flight hours in support of 5 Carrier Battlegroups and 2 Amphibious Ready Groups. VP-4 set new standards of mission excellence, flying over 100 armed sorties while carrying over 200,000 pounds of ordnance. Skinny Dragon aircrew and maintenance personnel conducted the first armed detachment from Doha, Qatar, flying 21 straight days with weapons and exercised the first 24-hour armed ready alert MPA posture in the Arabian Gulf. In addition, VP-4 participated in numerous bilateral ASW exercises, SAR and Med. Evac missions and Maritime Interdiction Operations, and was present during increased tensions with Iraq.

More than 30 "Skinny Dragons" from Patrol Squadron (VP) 4 returned home to Hawaii February 16, 2003. Since Jan. 9, VP-4 had been deployed to Naval Air Station North Island, CA, along with aircrews and maintenance personnel from Patrol Squadron (VP) 40, reserve Patrol Squadron (VP) 65, and Canadian squadrons MP405 and MP407. For more than three weeks, they flew in support of the USS Nimitz (CVN 68) Battle Group in the waters off San Diego as part of two exercises, Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX 3-02) and Joint Task Force Exercise (JTFEX 3-02).

Seventy-five Sailors from Patrol Squadron (VP) 4 deployed from MCB Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, on Nov. 27, 2004, in support of Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom. In total, a crew of approximately 390 Sailors from VP-4 were to deploy over the following week to support U.S. 5th and 7th Fleet operations in a variety of locations, something new to the squadron. Previously, the squadron deployed as a whole to a specific region. However, with reconfigurations in how the squadron community operates, the unit was made to have six autonomous detachments in different areas. The squadron would participate in anti-submarine warfare, reconnaissance, intelligence and surveillance over the six-month period.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 02:04:05 ZULU