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Airborne Command & Control Squadron (VAW) 117 “Wallbangers”

Squadron History

The World Famous “Wallbangers” of Airborne Command & Control Squadron One One Seven (VAW-117) are home ported in NBVC Point Mugu, California. The Wallbangers fly the Navy's newest carrier-based command and control platform, the E-2D Hawkeye. The squadron is comprised of 175 officers and enlisted personnel hailing from all corners of the United States. Their diverse backgrounds have helped forge an aggressive war fighting squadron renowned for its operational excellence and innovation.

The Hawkeye is designed for airborne early warning. It is a 5-seat, twin-turboprop, all-weather aircraft. From higher altitudes, the Hawkeye looks beyond the horizon and over obstacles to deny the enemy their most valuable asset: surprise. This allows the air defense system at least 30 minutes of warning providing time to detect, classify the threat, and deploy fighter aircraft or surface missiles for optimum effect. Equipped with state-of-the-art systems, the Hawkeye provides fully automatic detection and tracking over land and water. Additionally, it supplies simultaneous surveillance of air and surface traffic. Though the Hawkeye can operate independently, it normally functions as an extension of existing air defense systems. All data obtained aboard the plane can be relayed to surface command posts for display and decision-making.

The Wallbangers were established at NAS North Island, CA on 01 July 1974, as part of Fighter Early Warning Wing, U.S. Pacific Fleet. The squadron received its first E-2B aircraft in October 1974 and a year later they deployed to the Mediterranean Sea aboard USS Independence (CV 62). The squadron made its first Western Pacific (WESTPAC) deployment with Carrier Air Wing Two aboard USS Ranger (CV 61) in February 1979.

Over the past 30 years, the Wallbangers have constantly found themselves at the tip of the spear. During the 1988 WESTPAC aboard USS Enterprise (CVN 65), VAW-117 played a key role in Operation Praying Mantis during which an Iranian ship was destroyed. In addition, the Wallbangers excelled in providing command and control during the attacks on oil platforms and small ships. The onset of Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm led to the most accelerated turn around training cycle ever. Aboard USS Abraham Lincoln's (CVN 72) maiden WESTPAC Voyage in May of 1991, VAW-117 assisted in the evacuation from the Philippines after the eruption of Mount Pinatubo during Operation Fiery Vigil.

In 1999 The Wallbangers were selected to provide operational testing for the MCU/ACIS (Mission Computer Upgrade/ Advance Computer Information System). That new computer system in the E-2 gave them a distinct advantage in their command and control capabilities. In July 2001, the Wallbangers were the first squadron to deploy with the new MCU/ACIS system during WESTPAC 2001-02 aboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70).

After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11th, 2001, the Wallbangers and Carrier Air Wing Eleven were among the first aircraft to lead the strikes on Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. The Wallbangers flew an unprecedented amount of combat sorties in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The extensive radar and communication equipment onboard the E-2C Hawkeye allowed the Wallbangers to become a vital part of our nation's anti-terrorist operations. The Wallbangers continuously provided battle space management over Pakistan and southern Afghanistan, ensuring the safety of all airborne assets and deconfliction with commercial airways. They served as an information-clearing house, providing a communications relay between command authorities on the ground and tactical aircraft airborne. What began as an operation that consisted mainly of carrier-based naval air assets evolved into a multi-service and multi-faceted, combined operation. The Wallbangers were crucial in ensuring the smooth integration of aircraft from Navy, Air Force, and allied nations.

The Bangers continued to spearhead the Hawkeye community as the first fleet squadron to receive the Hawkeye 2000 aircraft. The Hawkeye 2000 features the Cooperative Engagement Capability system (CEC) and is the Navy's most comprehensive sensor fusion system that drastically improves the carrier strike group's situational awareness and self-defense capabilities.

During the 2013 deployment, the Wallbangers paid respect to prior VAW-117 Sailors by adopting the vintage lemur patches. The lemur was an unofficial mascot of the squadron while deployed on the USS Ranger (CV 61) in 1980-81. The lemur is a symbol of the far-sighted, early warning capability of the E-2 Hawkeye.

The Wallbangers recently transitioned to the new E-2D Advanced Hawkeye. The aircraft is a twin-engine, turbo-prop, all weather radar command and control platform and makes a two-generation leap in radar sensor capability over the legacy E-2C. The aircrew still consists of two pilots and three naval flight officers. However, the copilot seat has the ability to tactically utilize all avalible systems in the aircraft. This is another leap from legacy systems. The Hawkeye’s advanced features allow the Wallbangers to give warfare commanders the most complete and up-to-the-minute picture of theater operations. The E-2D is a game changer for the Navy, acting as the eyes of the fleet with completely new sensors providing advanced detection and identification capabilities to the carrier strike group.

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