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Airborne Command & Control Squadron (VAW) 115 “Liberty Bells”

Squadron History

VAW-115's history is deeply rooted in over 44 years of persistent presence in the Western Pacific region. The "Liberty Bells" supported combat operations in Vietnam and the Middle East, conducted presence operations at the "tip of the spear' in the Pacific, played a large role in several humanitarian missions, and forged incredible partnerships with our Pacific region allies. The legacy of excellence, honed while forward deployed, continues today as VAW-115 begins a new chapter while assigned in the Continental U.S. to Carrier Air Wing ELEVEN.

The Liberty Bells initially flew the E-2A Hawkeye, and were assigned to CVW-2 onboard the USS Ranger. After transitioning to the E-2B variant, VAW-115 shifted to CVW-5 on board the USS Midway (CV-41), where the squadron participated in two combat deployments in the Gulf of Tonkin between May 1971 and April 1973. In September 1973, the Midway moved to Yokosuka, Japan, as the only continuously forward deployed U.S. Navy Airborne Early Warning platform. From the late 1970s throughout the 1980s, VAW-115 made eleven deployments to the Indian Ocean and North Arabian Sea, a period which saw such tumultuous events as the Iranian seizure of the American Embassy in Tehran.

In response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, VAW-115 deployed to the Persian Gulf in October 1990 as part of Operation Desert Shield. In January 1991, Desert Shield transitioned to Desert Storm and saw VAW-115 flying 179 combat sorties. In August of that same year, CVW-5 transitioned from the USS Midway to the USS Independence (CV-62).

Throughout the rest of the 1990s, the USS Independence was called on numerous times to participate in operations in the Persian Gulf. These missions involved controlling No-Fly Zones over Iraq and supporting United Nations' sanctions. In 1998, the Liberty Bells transitioned with the rest of CVW-5 to the USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63). VAW-115 did not see the Persian Gulf again until 2003, when they flew over 350 hours in support of Operation Southern Watch and Operation Iraqi Freedom. In 2011, the squadron provided command and control support of Operation Tomodachi after a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and ensuing tsunami devastated Japan.

In November 2013, VAW-115 flew more than 80 hours in support of Operation Damayan, the multi-national response to the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. The Liberty Bells provided command and control infrastructure for the US military and Philippine government while coordinating the delivery of 1,000,000 pounds of water, 600,000 pounds of food, 2,800 pounds of medical supplies, and transportation of 6,552 evacuees and relief workers. As a result of their invaluable contributions to the relief effort, VAW-115 received a meritorious unit citation and all participating crew received the humanitarian service medal.

In the first half of 2017, following decades of operations out of Atsugi, Japan, the Liberty Bells prepared for a historic homeport change back into the continental United States. During this transition, VAW-115 led efforts to plan and integrate VAW-125, the first E-2D squadron, into their new operating area at MCAS Iwakuni, Japan.

After months of preparation, VAW-115 transited the Pacific Ocean aboard the USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) with four E-2C aircraft and 147 personnel, arriving at Naval Base Ventura County, Point Mugu, CA in June of 2017. While entering the maintenance phase, the Liberty Bells immediately started work on rebuilding E-2C Hawkeye aircraft for the community, and delivered a combat-ready Hawkeye to VAW-116 one month after completing their homeport change. VAW-115 had the privilege of flying Chief of Naval Air Forces in one of these long term down aircraft, now in a fully mission capable status.

In February 2018, the Liberty Bells joined CVW-11. Following shortly after a change of command, the squadron participated in joint air interoperability exercises Neptune Falcon and Neptune Hawk, operating with a diverse group of air platforms. The Liberty Bells then transitioned to participating in its first full Fleet Readiness Training Program. This included HARP events as well as Strike Fighter Advanced Readiness Program (SFARP) Air-to-Ground in Fallon, NV, where the squadron achieved more than 75 flight hours and a 94% sortie completion rate.

Rolling right out of the successes in Nevada, VAW-115 completed two weeks worth of Field Carrier Landing Practice in preparation for its carrier qualifications aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). While aboard the squadron requalified ten pilots, flew over 60 hours, completed 29 sorties including multiple cyclical ops, and had 56 successful arrested landings all over the course of five fly days. Following CQ, VAW-115 blazed new trails by orchestrating a proof of concept evolution involving ground refueling from a KC-130, simulating operating in an expeditionary mindset. This evolution could pave the way for future expeditionary modifications to the Hawkeye platform.

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