Patrol Squadron FOUR FIVE [VP-45]
In early 1996 VP-45 representatives sailed aboard USS George Washington during Exercise Freedom 96-3 and on USS Arthur W. Radford (DD 968) for Exercise SHAREM 117. Both exercises tested the integrated concept of the sea combat warfare commander and emphasized the importance of forward deployed MPA squadrons. In July 1996 several aircrew and maintenance personnel from Partol Squadron Forty-five, homeported in Jacksonville, Fla., deployed from Sigonella, Sicily, for a two-week detachment to Air Station Vaerloese, Denmark, just outside Copenhagen. The Pelicans participated in the 24th annual Baltic Operations, a U.S.-led invitational exercise was designed in the spirit of NATO's Partnership for Peace concept. Whereas Phase I of the exercise was an opportunity for the Partnership for Peace countries to conduct basic operations with NATO for the first time, Phase II was a chance for NATO countries to perform real-life scenarios in the Baltic Sea.
VP-45 departed their home port in Jacksonville, Fla., for a six-month deployment to Naval Air Station, Sigonella, Sicily, Italy in early August 1997. The official turnover was 10 August with Patrol Squadron 8. The Pelicans ended their last deployment to Sigonella September 1996.
Patrol Squadron (VP) 45 provided real-time aerial reconnaissance to Stabilization Force (SFOR) commanders on the ground in Bosnia-Herzegovina, since their Mediterranean deployment began in August 1997. Using a combination of camera equipment, teamwork and dedication, VP-45 became a valued asset to the peacekeeping effort in the former Republic of Yugoslavia. On one mission in September, a team of 12 aviators and tacticians -- supported by squadron maintenance personnel and operations experts at Naval Air Station, Sigonella, Sicily -- provided SFOR commanders a first-hand look at what was taking place in the war-torn country during a clear autumn afternoon. The aircrew was flying a P-3C Orion equipped with a long-range, high resolution, computer controlled, gyro-stabilized camera system mounted in the airframe. This system, called Cast Glance, allowed the aircrew to take video and still images of the ground and pass them by way of a radio data link to SFOR commanders as events occur. All of this was accomplished from an altitude high enough to protect the aircraft from surface-to-air weapons threats. Once the aircrew was over the assigned target, the electro-optical (EO) camera team begins transmitting a real- time video image to remote receiver sites on the ground at SFOR headquarters in Bosnia.
Prior to their 1997 deployment to Sigonella, VP-45 crews attended Stand-Off Land Attack Missile (SLAM) training at Point Mugu, Calif. The squadron then completed a live SLAM shot at San Nicholas Island, Calif. Patrol Squadron (VP) 45 successfully conducted the first test of a Stand- Off Land Attack Missile (SLAM) from a P-3C Orion aircraft in the Mediterranean. After taking off from its forward-deployed base in Sigonella, Sicily, the aircraft simulated a missile launch and flight profile. The missile's seeker head locked on to the target and simulated a successful kill.
In August 1997 Patrol Squadron (VP) 45 P-3C "Orion" aircraft conducted a training exercise with Navy SEALs using the latest in intelligence dissemination equipment. The 6th Fleet exercise, held in the western Mediterranean, involved VP-45 aircraft, USS Tempest (PC 2) and the SEALs. Using the newly developed Air Deployable Delivery System (ADDS), the squadron passed critical surveillance information directly to the SEALs waiting in the water. ADDS makes it easier to share intelligence information for closer support of surface ships and special operations.
Within one week, Patrol Squadron Forty-Five (VP-45) crewmen were quick to the scene of two aircraft search and rescue (SAR) operations. The squadron's Navy P-3C Orion aircraft assisted in SAR efforts off the coast of Africa and in western Europe. The squadron participated in its second SAR operation within 48 hours and was first on the scene 17 September 1997, when a U.N. helicopter crashed with 16 people aboard, on a hill top in Bosnia. The P-3C Orion was on a routine surveillance mission and was the closest U.S. asset to the crash scene when it was diverted to assist. Prior to the Bosnia crash, the squadron's planes assisted in the search effort for one U.S. and one German aircraft that crashed in the south Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Namibia two days earlier. Approximately 20 personnel from VP-45 departed after being tasked by Senior U.S. military commanders in Europe. The crew conducted search and rescue operations from a forward staging area in Namibia, Africa, until the mission was completed.
During home-cycle training in Jacksonville, Fla., Pelican aircrew routinely trained with the Maverick missile system and conducted a successful missile shot off the coast of Puerto Rico. On 25 September 1997 the Pelicans showed their proficiency and the ability of the Maverick by yet again conducting a successful missile shot in a littoral scenario.
The squadron continued to set high standards for on-station presence and performance, both over land in operation DELIBERATE GUARD and in a remarkable 28 exercises in support of the SIXTH Fleet. For outstanding performance throughout the year, the VP-45 maintenance department received the Golden Wrench award for 1998.
The Pelicans departed in February 1999 on another multi-site deployment to Puerto Rico, Panama, and Keflavik. The squadron made history by helping seize over $1.6 billion dollars of cocaine in the Caribbean, continuing their ASW superiority in the North Atlantic, and intercepting the first Russian BEAR "F" aircraft in Icelandic airspace in over eight years. In July, VP-45 surpassed 30 years and 198,000 hours of mishap-free flying.
In mid-1999 two narcotics seizures in the Caribbean highlighted the role the Navy's Maritime Patrol Aviation and Airborne Early Warning squadrons are playing in stemming the tide of illegal drugs coming from South America to the United States. Vessels, located by patrolling aircraft operating out of Naval Station Roosevelt Roads, were boarded on the high seas by law enforcement teams, resulting in the seizure 18,925 pounds of cocaine. Maritime Patrol squadrons (VP) 45 and 92 flying the P-3 Orion, Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 125 flying the E-2C Hawkeye and the Roosevelt Roads Tactical Support Center (TSC) teamed up with joint forces in the interdiction of cocaine aboard the vessels China Breeze and Castor. Routinely flying search missions the P-3s of VP-45 and those of their reserve counterparts in VP-92 scour the ocean daily while on deployment to Naval Station Roosevelt Roads.
Returning home to Jacksonville in August 1999, the squadron began another rigorous Inter-deployment Training Cycle (IDTC) which included transitioning to the newest P-3 upgrade, the Anti-Surface Warfare Improvement Program (AIP). With the transition complete in August 2000, VP-45 took AIP back on deployment to Sigonella, Sicily. Highlighted by 24x7 armed surface combat air patrol, VP-45's deployment encompassed over 84 armed missions in support of SIXTH Fleet contingency operations. The Pelicans provided superior support throughout the Mediterranean in Anti-submarine/Surface Warfare. Overland Reconnaissance, and Strike missions. The squadron was awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation for Excellence, and the Southeast Region Navy Community Service Award for the second consecutive year.
After the terrorist attacks in September 2001, VP-45 flew long range reconnaissance missions along the U.S. East Coast in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM. The Pelicans were awarded the Arleigh Burke Trophy and the CNO Personal Excellence Partnership Award for 2001. The squadron departed for a Puerto Rico/Keflavik deployment in February 2002 and also operated from various detachment locations. To date, the squadron has logged more than 234,000 mishap-free flight hours.
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