VAQ-135 was established at NAS Alameda, CA on 15 May 1969 as the seventh Tactical Electronic Warfare (VAQ) Squadron in the Navy. The new unit’s core came from VAQ-130 det 43 with the first deployment being made to South East Asia during the spring of 1969 with five EKA/KA-3B Skywarriors as a member of CVW-15 in USS Coral Sea (CVA-43)
Initially called the “Homebrew”, from their radio call-sign, VAQ-135 was subsequently configured to provide three to five aircraft detachments, making ten deployments to both 6th and 7th Fleets through January 1974, when they moved to NAS Whidbey Island for transition to the EA-6B.
By now calling themselves the “Black Ravens”, VAQ-135 began its first Prowler deployment with four Standards in January 1976 as a member of CVW-2 in the USS Ranger (CV-61).
The “Ravens” became the first unit to receive the new Improved Capability (ICAP) EA-6Bs in 1977 and moved to CVW-8 and USS Nimitz (CVN-68) for their second Prowler deployment, this time to the 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean.
They moved again in late 1978, now to the CVW-15 USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63) team, with which they made two more trips to the Western pacific. On 1979 the squadron lost its Commanding Officer, CDR. Pete Rodrick, along with his crew when their EA-6B went missing in the Pacific Ocean. This event and the impact it would have on the Rodrick family would later lead to the writing of the book The Magical Stranger, by his son Stephen, in a work that also deals with the squadron in 2008-2009.
1982 featured a Med deployment onboard the USS America (CV-66) with CVW-1. Fleet demands for Prowlers led to an exceptionally short turn-around as the Black Ravens spent less than a month in Whidbey Island before joining Nimitz and CVW-8 for another six-month deployment.
They returned to America in late 1981 and made another trip to the Med with CVW-1 the following year.
On New Year’s Eve 1986 the squadron made a rapid deployment to the Med to join CVW-13 onboard the USS Coral Sea (CV-43), which was deployed to the Med without EA-6Bs assigned. The air wing subsequently supported strikes into Libya with the Ravens proving a critical part of Operation El Dorado Canyon.
Returning to the U.S. the “Black Ravens” moved on to Carrier Air Wing ELEVEN, beginning an association that would last for over 20 years as they would make their next 12 deployments with that organization on five different carriers. These cruises would be highlighted by combat over Iraq and Afghanistan.
The following deployment, with CVW-11 was in USS Enterprise (CVN-65) and was punctuated by electronic support for Operation Praying Mantis, which involved strikes against units of the Iranian Navy, which had been attacking shipping in the Arabian Gulf. The “Raven’s” jamming efforts included use of the newly installed ASQ-191 interim communications jammer against Iranian forces.
Following two deployments in Enterprise the squadron moved with its Air Wing to the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72), where they made three extended deployments to the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean regions.
They returned to the Kitty Hawk in 1996 for another trip to West Pac and then moved again with the wing to USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) for two deployments, both of which included combat operations over Iraq and Afghanistan under Operations Desert Fox and Enduring Freedom. In 2000 the “Ravens” also made a three month expeditionary deployment to Incirlik Turkey, where they conducted combat flights as part of Operation Northern Watch.
The squadron made its last five Prowler deployments back with Nimitz, still as a member of CVW-11 with which they continued combat operations as part of the “Global War on Terror”.
VAQ-135 completed its final EA-6B deployment in March 2010 and returned to Whidbey Island for transition to the EA-18G Growler.
Major Prowler Deployments: VAQ-135
|1-5/86||Coral Sea||Med||CVW-13||El Dorado Canyon|
|10/96-4/97||Kitty Hawk||WP/IO/PG||CVW-11||Southern Watch|
|11/98-5/99||Carl Vinson||WP/IO/PG||CVW-11||Southern Watch, Desert Fox|
|5-8/00||-----||Incirlik TU||----||Northern Watch|
|7/01-1/02||Carl Vinson||WP/IO/PG||CVW-11||Enduring Freedom|
|5-11/05||Nimitz||WP/IO||CVW-11||Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom|
|4-9/07||Nimitz||WP/IO||CVW-11||Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom|
|7/09-3/10||Nimitz||WP/IO||CVW-11||Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom|
WP: Western Pacific, IO: Indian Ocean, PG: Persian Gulf, LANT: Atlantic, MED: Mediterranean Sea
|CDR Tom. Maxwell||Jul 1973 - transition to EA-6B|
|CDR R.T. Gundermann||Oct 1974|
|CDR F.E. Wilmot||Jan 1977|
|CDR M. Oetinger||Apr 1978|
|CDR Pete Rodrick||Jul 1979|
|CDR ‘Zeke’ Zardeskas||Nov 1979|
|CDR Denny Bird||Mar 1981|
|CDR Rusty Dewar||Mar 1982|
|CDR Rock Penfold||Jul 1983|
|CDR Bernie Hedger||Aug 1984|
|CDR Denny Major||Feb 1986|
|CDR Jim Hollenbach||May 1987|
|CDR Jeff Harris||Aug 1988|
|CDR Mark Caron||Nov 1989|
|CDR Al Miller||Mar 1991|
|CDR “Fast Eddy” Hafner||Feb 1994|
|CDR Vic Cerne||May 1994|
|CDR Clay Pinson||Nov 1995|
|CDR Jerry McWithey||Feb 1997|
|CDR Mike “Opie” Stahl||Apr 1998|
|CDR JD “Sarge” Alexander||Jul 1999|
|CDR Steve “Kerbs: Kirby||Oct 2000|
|CDR Brian “Hinks” Hinkley||Feb 2002|
|CDR “Bobo” Schneider||May 2003|
|CDR Pat Walsh||Sept 2004|
|CDR Scott Hogan||Dec 2005|
|CDR TD ‘Hoolie” Reynolds||Mar 2007|
|CDR Brent Breining||Apr 2008|
|CDR JH ‘Tupper’ Ware||Jul 2009|
The Black Ravens have used at least three insignias during their Prowler years. Approved by CNO 7 Nov. 1969.
The first one, which was adopted during their A-3 years, features a Raven with a full hook-nose profile.
Number two, introduced in 1977, softened the bird's nose features.
Number three included a feathered wing and first appeared in 1981. It was formally approved by CNO on 20 Nov 1984.
RJM Oct 2016