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VAQ-129 | Vikings | 1971-2015

Electronic Attack Squadron ONE TWO NINE was originally established as Heavy Attack Squadron TEN (VAH-10) at NAS Whidbey Island, WA on 1 May 1961 .  Assigned the Douglas A3D-2 Skywarrior, the squadron was tasked with nuclear and conventional attack missions as well as tanking.

Initially taking the name “Strikers”, the Whidbey-based unit was soon tagged as “Vikings” by their new, Florida-based Air Group. The name stuck and has remained with the organization ever since.

The “Vikings” were initially assigned to short-lived CVG-13 and participated in the shakedown of the new aircraft carrier USS Constellation (CVA-64).  They would subsequently make two Western Pacific deployments with the A3D-2 (A-3B from 1962) as a complete squadron onboard “Connie” as a member of Carrier Air Wing-14 with 12 “Whales” assigned.  In August 1964 the squadron was present for what became known as the Gulf of Tonkin incident, which quickly led to America’s long involvement in the Vietnam War.

From mid-1965 VAH-10 began deploying small detachments of from three to six A-3Bs to carriers on both coasts. By mid-1967 the A-3’s attack role had been replaced by tanking as the primary mission, with their aircraft now being designated as KA-3Bs.   A small number of EKA-3B jamming aircraft arrived in 1969; the “Vikings” introducing this type to the Mediterranean on Saratoga (CVA-60) in 1969.   By mid-1970 the unit had cruised with a multitude of different ships with eight detachments being directly involved in combat operations in Vietnam.

On 1 September 1970 VAH-10 was redesignated Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron-129 (VAQ-129) as part of the Navy’s ongoing reorganization of its A-3 community as Electronic Warfare replaced the Heavy Attack mission area.

VAQ-129 had two “Whale” detachments underway at the time of redesignation, with KA-3Bs onboard USS Shangri-La (CVS-38) and USS Independence (CVA-62).  One more det would leave Whidbey in October 1970, with three EKA-3Bs joining CVW-21 in USS Hancock (CVA-19) off Vietnam.  When they returned home on 22 May 1971, the “Vikings” were a completely different squadron.

The squadron’s change reflected its new mission as the training squadron for the new Grumman EA-6B Prowler, the first of which arrived at Whidbey on 29 January 1971.  The “Vikings” were now the Fleet Readiness Squadron (FRS) for the new Prowler community being built in the Pacific Northwest. Also called the “RAG” (for the obsolete, but still recognized term Replacement Air Group), VAQ-129 went right to work, overseeing the conversion of six EKA-3B squadrons to the new Prowler with the “Scorpions” of VAQ-132 being the first out of the schoolhouse, in mid-1972, and on its way to Vietnam.

In April 1973 the squadron accepted its first ground-based systems trainer as device 15E22, which replaced aircrew training in the hangar on actual aircraft.  Subsequent 15E22 versions would be acquired to provide training in later Prowler versions. 

Along with aircrew instruction duties the squadron also carried out the critical role of Fleet Readiness Aviation Maintenance Personnel (FRAMP), where it trained enlisted men and women to fix the mighty Prowler.  They were also typically introduced each new version of the EA-6B to Whidbey; with the original Standard (Basic) being followed by the EXCAP (1973), ICAP (1976), ICAP II (1984; followed by the Block 86, 89 and 89A sub-variants) and, finally, ICAP III in 2005.

Among VAQ-129’s more critical functions was carrying out the critical duties as the EA-6B community’s NATOPS model manager, providing standardized training, evaluation and safety policy development for every squadron that flew the aircraft.

Along with conducting routine EA-6B training VAQ-129 also acted as the hub of the entire VAQ community by hosting an annual classified Electronic Warfare Symposium, which continues as a highly regarded operational-level conference open to all U.S. Department of Defense EW organizations. The squadron also organizes and runs the annual “Prowler Ball” formal dinner and awards ceremony where the best of the EA-6B community are recognized by their peers.

In 1975 the first Marines reported to VAQ-129 to start the Corps’ transition from the EA-6A Intruder to the Prowler. Initially coming onboard as instructors, the first Devil Dog students graduated in September ’77 and reported to VMAQ-2, where they replaced EA-6As.

While the primary role of the squadron was to train replacement crew and maintenance personnel, VAQ-129 also periodically carried out operational EW support missions, performing jamming support for transiting U.S. Navy and allied warships, against German F-4s based at George AFB in California, against NORAD units in Canada, Army Air Defense HAWK missile units and in multiple USAF exercises throughout the country.

VAQ-129 frequently supplied aircrew and maintainers to assist deployed squadrons during periods of intense combat activity. Among other events, Viking aircrew flew missions over Bosnia and Iraq in particular during Operations Allied Force and Iraqi Freedom.

On 30 May 1998 the squadron’s formal title was changed to Electronic Attack Squadron-ONE TWO NINE (VAQ-129) in a community-wide change from the older Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron designation.

VAQ-129 continued its duties out of Whidbey through 2009 when the first Boeing EA-18G Growler arrived on base as the Prowler’s replacement.  In 2013, with the end of Navy Prowler use on the horizon, the Vikings transferred their EA-6B training mission to VMAQ-1 at MCAS Cherry Point, NC, which itself became VMAQT-1.

The Vikings continue serving the nation as the sole school house for the EA-18G.

Commanding Officers 1970-2014

CDR J.D. Blackwood 1 Sept 1971
CDR Bob Fraser 3 Sep 1971
CDR R.A. Deleke 15 Sep 1972
CDR J.O. Harmon 10 Aug 1973
CDR L. Diloreto 20 Sept 1974
CDR L.P. Stone 15 Dec 1975
CDR D.J. Taft 18 Mar 1977
CDR Ken Carlsen 5 May 1978
CDR R.L. Newman 10 Aug 1979
CDR Grady Jackson 6 Jan 1981
CDR J.W. “Bill” Dickson 2 April 1982
CDR Barry Sehlin 25 Jul 1983
CDR Doug White 30 Nov 1984
CDR Denny Bird 28 Feb 1986
CDR Tom Ford 6 Mar 1987
CDR Rock Penfold 15 Apr 1988
CDR Renny Ide 21 Apr 1989
CDR Phil Sowa 27 Jul 1990
CAPT Rick Porritt 9 Aug 1991
CDR Rich Perkins 7 Aug 1992
CAPT T.P. Lane 7 Jan 1994
CAPT Doug Swoish 16 Nov 1995
CAPT Ken “Kilo” Parks  24 Apr 1997
CAPT Don Quinn 6 Oct 1998
CAPT Casey Collins 11 May 2000
CAPT Dave Woods 7 Mar 2002
CAPT Sterling Gilliam 10 Oct 2003
CDR Stephen Mc Inerney 7 Oct 2005
CAPT Chris “Rasta” ShayFeb 2008
CDR MD McKennaMay 2009 - Final EA-6B CO at VAQ-129

VAQ-129 Subordination
Commander, Tactical Electronic Warfare Wing-THIRTEEN (VAQWING-13) 1970-1972
Commander, Fleet Air Whidbey (COMFAIRWHIDBEY)1972-1973
Commander, Medium Attack Tactical Electronic Warfare Wing U.S. Pacific Fleet (COMMATVAQWINGPAC) 1973-1993
Commander, Electronic Combat Wing U.S. Pacific Fleet  1993-1998
Commander, Electronic Attack Wing U.S. Pacific Fleet   1998-on

Quick Facts on VAQ-129

VIPS: In its first year of EA-6B operations, VAQ-129 hosted VADM “Bush Bringel”, AIRPAC and Senator “Scoop” Jackson (D-Washington) at the arrival of the first Prowler to Whidbey Island. The amount of interest generated by the new aircraft was reflected by visits in 1972-73 by Under Secretary of the Navy John Warner (later US Senator from Virginia) as well as SECNAV John Chaffee.  Through the following years VAQ-129 would be routinely visited by high ranked officials to receive briefs on the Prowler.

Carriers: As a RAG VAQ-129 probably hit every flight deck in the U.S. fleet through its period at one point or another. The squadron’s first CQ det was in USS Lexington (AVT-16), which it worked in July 1972. It would be the only time Prowlers worked off a modified Essex-class hull.

Versions: As the RAG, VAQ-129 flew every version of the EA-6B built.  The last Standard class graduated in December 1976. The final EXCAP class exited in 1983. 

Student Production: (unfortunately, “all time” statistics for EA-6B production do not appear to be available).
1976: 28 Pilots, 52 ECMOs.
1986:  33 Pilots (31 Navy, 2 Marine), 98 ECMOs (80/18).
1996: 50 Pilots (36 Navy, 12 Marine, 2 USAF), 85 ECMOs (63 Navy, 17 Marine, 5 USAF)
2006: 39 Pilots, 99 ECMOs (not broken out by service in squadron history)

Aircraft Utilization, 1998: In 1998 VAQ-129 had 23 different Prowlers assigned of ICAP II Block 82 and 89 configuration. The average aircraft utilization was 55.4 hours per month with a Fully Mission Capable (FMC) rate of 60.6%.

Manning

1978:Staff:51 aviation officers, 2 “other” officers, 255 Enlisted.
Student:   43 aviation officers, 4 “other” officers, 86 Enlisted
1988: Staff:   61 total officers, 420 enlisted     
Student:110 officers, 118 enlisted.
1998Staff:56 total officers (incl 9 USMC), 2 RAF officers, 424 staff enlisted
Student     119 officers (incl. 16 USMC, 7 USAF)  

Aircraft Strength:  Early on VAQ-129 only had a small number of EA-6Bs assigned as rapid fleet build-up took priority over the RAG.  From 1971 to 1973 the squadron also had a pair of A-6 Intruders assigned for crew proficiency.  Through the 1970s the Vikings were authorized nine Prowlers although they usually had more as the squadron was frequently used to accept new aircraft from the factory before they moved on to the deploying squadrons. Over the years VAQ-129 could have up to 20 EA-6Bs onboard with an almost continuous rotation of airframes to and from the fleet.

Squadron Insignia:  VAQ-129 adopted a new insignia after its redesignation from Heavy-TEN in 1970.  The familiar red disc with crossed sword and lightning bolt was approved by CNO on 21 January 1971.

During the 2011-12 Centennial of Naval Aviation the squadron used a “throwback” blue insignia based on the original VAH-10 logo.