The shortest-lived of all Prowler squadrons, Electronic Attack Squadron ONE TWO EIGHT (VAQ-129) was officially established at Whidbey Island on 1 October 1997 (9 October ceremony) as the fourth and ultimately last of what had originally been five planned expeditionary Navy EA-6B units. The new organization took the number and modified insignia of Attack Squadron-128, the former A-6 Intruder training squadron that had disestablished in September 1995.
Adopting the name “Fighting Phoenix” the new squadron was assigned NL-510 series tailcode and side numbers by the Wing. Manning at this time was 25 Navy Officers, three Air Force aircrew and 159 Navy Enlisted men and women.
During VAQ-128’s first year it participated in two HARM shoots as well as three Red or Green Flag exercises with the Air Force at Nellis AFB, Nevada. Eleven months after establishment the “Phoenix” deployed to Saudi Arabia, where they participated in strikes on Iraq as part of Operation Desert Fox.
The following year made a return engagement to Saudi Arabia, again providing EW cover for coalition participating in Operation Southern Watch. Further deployments were made to Incirlik, Turkey, in 1999 and 2000, this time as part of Operation Northern Watch. An additional trip to Saudi Arabia was made in August 2001 and then back to Turkey in 2002.
In March 2003, the majority of the squadron’s aircrew and 50 Sailors and Chiefs deployed to Sigonella, Italy, staging for participation in Operation Iraqi Freedom. The original plan was for the Fighting Phoenix to join VAQ-134 in Incirlik as part of the planned northern campaign of OIF. In the event, Turkey declined to support the U.S. actions and eventually 128’s Sigonella force joined up with VAQ-134 at Prince Sultan Air Base (PASB) in Saudi Arabia for a short but intense period of flying. With the apparent end of major combat operations and the US forces’ departure from PSAB, the Prowlers and deployed USAF electronic combat/support aircraft all returned to their home stations.
Only six months after returning from the desert the Phoenix relieved VAQ-133 in a three month deployment to MCAS Iwakuni, Japan, where it came under the operational control of Marine Aircraft Group-TWELVE (MAG-12). In those intervening 6 months 128’s aircraft were modified for night vision goggles with all of the aircrew becoming NVG qualified. In addition to flying local area sorties in southern Japan, the Phoenix participated in Cope North 2003, flying out of Guam with the USAF and Japanese Air Self Defense Force, and sent two aircraft on a short training detachment to Misawa Air Base.
While in Japan the squadron was notified that the Navy was reducing the number of Expeditionary EA-6B units to three with VAQ-128 being the most recently stood up expeditionary squadron, it was tagged for disestablishment. Before heading back to Whidbey Island and into the history books, the squadron swapped four of its five Prowlers with VAQ-136, which was permanently assigned to the USS Kitty Hawk in Japan. The transfer gave the Gauntlets four upgraded Block 89A aircraft in place of their older Block 89 birds. The Phoenix departed Iwakuni on 17 January 2004 for the TransPac back home for what was in effect its last flights as a functioning squadron. Aircraft transfers commenced immediately upon the squadron’s return.
The “Phoenix” flew a total of 9450 hours Class-A mishap free during their short history. They were deactivated at NAS Whidbey Island at a 7 May 2004 ceremony with an official date of 31 September.
|Sep to Dec 1998||Prince Sultan AB, Saudi Arabia||OSW|
|Mar to Apr 1999||Prince Sultan AB, Saudi Arabia||OSW|
|Dec 1999 to Mar 2000||Incirlik Turkey||ONW|
|Oct 2000 to Jan 2001||Incirlik Turkey||ONW|
|Aug to Nov 2001||Prince Sultan AB, Saudi Arabia||OSW|
|May to Aug 2002||Incirlik, Turkey||ONW|
|Mar, Apr 2003||Sigonella, Italy|
|Apr 2003||Prince Sultan AB, Saudi Arabia||OIF|
|Oct 2003 to Jan 2004||MCAS Iwakuni, Japan|
OSW: Operation Southern Watch
ONW: Operation Northern Watch
OIF: Operation Iraqi Freedom
VAQ-128 COMMANDING OFFICERS
Nov 2016 RJM and Fred Drummond