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Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5

Command History

Carrier Air Wing FIVE (CVW-5) was first commissioned 15 February 1943 at Naval Air Station, Norfolk, Virginia, as Carrier Air Group FIVE (CVG-5).  Assigned to the USS YORKTOWN (CV-10), the new air group assumed the proud heritage and traditions of the original YORKTOWN Air Group.  The initial air group was first formed in 1938 and its squadrons carried the “5” designation taken from the former YORKTOWN’s hull number (CV-5).  The original YORKTOWN Air Group was disbanded 7 June 1942 after the Battle of Midway during which YORKTOWN was sunk.

CVG-5 was actively involved in the war in the Pacific, serving on the new YORKTOWN and on the USS FRANKLIN (CV-13) from August 1943 to March 1945.  For its gallant service in the Pacific, CVG-5 was awarded its first Presidential Unit Citation.  CVG-5’s participation in World War II was cut short on 18 March 1945 when FRANKLIN was struck with two 500-lb bombs.  The ensuing fires and explosions destroyed the majority of the air group’s aircraft.

Following World War II, CVG-5, home ported in San Diego, California, deployed to the Western Pacific in support of national policy.  Several firsts were recorded by CVG-5 during these years.  The Screaming Eagles of VF-5A were the first to land jet aircraft aboard an aircraft carrier when they flew two FJ-1 Furies aboard USS BOXER (CV-21) on 10 March 1948.  In 1949, the same squadron, renamed VF-51, became the first to operate the F-9F Panther, the Navy’s first truly operational jet fighter.  The first air group to enter the Korean War, CVG-5 was embarked on the USS VALLEY FORGE (CV-47) when VF-51 recorded the first air-to-air jet kill in naval history.  For its service in Korea, the air group was awarded three Navy Unit Commendations, compiling more combat time than any other air group during the Korean War.

From 1953 to 1964, CVG-5 resumed its WESTPAC deployment schedule embarking on four different aircraft carriers during seven cruises to the Far East.  On 20 December 1963, CVG-5 became Carrier Air Wing FIVE when the Navy changed its air group classification system.

As tension grew in Southeast Asia, CVW-5 was once again called to combat action in the Gulf of Tonkin in August 1964 while serving on the USS TICONDEROGA (CVA-14). On 6 March 1965, embarked on the USS MIDWAY (CV-41), CVW-5 again sailed for the Far East, her aircraft prepared for combat operations, and from mid-April flew strikes against military and logistics installations in North and South Vietnam. On 17 June 1965, while escorting a strike on the barracks at Gen Phu, North Vietnam, members of VF-21, flying F-4B Phantoms, intercepted four MiG-17s, shooting down two, scoring the first U.S. victories over MiGs in Vietnam. Over the next nine years of the Vietnam Conflict, CVW-5 returned to the Gulf of Tonkin for a total of eight combat cruises, which earned the air wing three more Navy Unit Commendations and its first Meritorious Unit Commendation.

Returning from its final Vietnam combat cruise in March 1973, CVW-5 had only a brief stay in its homeport of San Diego.  Participating in an evolution unique in US aircraft carrier history, the air wing embarked on the MIDWAY on 11 September 1973 to become part of the first carrier/air wing team to be permanently forward deployed overseas.  Arriving in Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan on 5 October 1973, CVW-5 and the MIDWAY took up quarters in their new homeport to defend the strategic interests of the United States, while assisting the Japanese Self Defense Forces in defending their homeland.

In the years between 1973 and 1991, USS MIDWAY and CVW-5 made numerous deployments throughout the Western Pacific, South China Sea, Indian Ocean and Northern Pacific to counter the Soviet threat in those areas.  One of the most notable deployments occurred in 1984, when CVW-5 completed 111 continuous days on station in the North Arabian Sea, guarding the Strait of Hormuz and guaranteeing the continued flow of vital oil to our allies in Japan and Western Europe.  Again in June 1985, USS MIDWAY/CVW-5 steamed into the Indian Ocean to remain on station in the North Arabian Sea.  Marking the eighth Indian Ocean deployment for the carrier/air wing team, this 83-day on-station period was completed with a port visit to Perth, Australia.

After its return to Japan on 31 March 1986 from a routine Western Pacific deployment, CVW-5 began a major transformation into a modern carrier air wing employing the very latest combat aircraft technology available.  On 25 March 1986, the final carrier launching of a Navy fleet F-4S Phantom II took place off MIDWAY during flight operations in the East China Sea. Members of VF-151 manned the aircraft, marking another CVW-5 milestone.  In April 1986, the two squadrons of F-4’s and two squadrons of A-7’s detached from the air wing, never to return.  Additionally, four EA-6A Prowlers transited the Pacific to be replaced by updated airframes at Naval Air Station, Whidbey Island, Washington.  Despite having five squadrons stateside, in October 1986 CVW-5 participated in an integrated air wing weapons detachment to Naval Air Station, Fallon, Nevada.  Using borrowed fleet replacement squadron and fleet aircraft for A-6 and E-2 crew use, the unprecedented Fallon Detachment participation by the restructured air wing resulted in one of the finest air wing NAS Fallon deployments on record.

Three F/A-18 Hornet squadrons and the refurbished EA-6B squadron completed the TRANSPAC back to Japan in November 1986.  Almost immediately after returning to Japan, CVW-5 again deployed aboard MIDWAY on a routine Western Pacific deployment.  Continuing to deploy to various regions in the Pacific during 1987, in September, CVW-5 was joined by its newest A-6 squadron, the Nighthawks of VA-185.

In November of 1987, the air wing and USS MIDWAY deployed to the North Arabian Sea.  During the extended time on station, the CVW-5/MIDWAY team participated in numerous allied exercises before retuning to NAF Atsugi, Japan in April 1988.  From May 1988 to June 1989, CVW-5 deployed aboard the MIDWAY four separate times for a total at sea time in excess of five months.  The squadrons participated in nine allied or combined exercises and logged more than 28,000 peacetime flight hours.

Carrier Air Wing FIVE began its final cruise aboard the USS MIDWAY in October 1990 as part of Operation Desert Shield.  From November to January 1991, the carrier/air wing team participated in numerous multinational exercises and operated continuously in the Arabian Gulf.  On 17 January 1991, Operation Desert Shield changed to Desert Storm as CVW-5 aircraft launched a night strike deep into Iraq.  For the next forty-three days, the air wing flew 3,383 combat sorties and expended over four million pounds of ordinance without the loss of any aircraft or aircrew.  CVW-5 and MIDWAY contributed significantly to the liberation of Kuwait while minimizing allied casualties and was awarded the Navy Unit Commendation.  In April 1991, the MIDWAY battle group returned to Yokosuka, Japan.

In August 1991, CVW-5 accompanied the USS MIDWAY en route to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii for the first ever OFRP[p1]  air wing swap out between the USS MIDWAY and USS INDEPENDENCE (CV-62).  With the decommissioning of VA-185 on 30 August 1991 and a new homeport change for VFA-151 to Lemoore, California on 1 September 1991, joining CVW-5 in a new composition were two F-14 (VF-21 and VF-154) and one S-3B (VS-21) squadrons.  This new and improved CVW-5 returned to Yokosuka on board USS INDEPENDENCE on 11 September 1991.  Returning to the Arabian Gulf in April 1992, the air wing participated in “Operation Southern Watch” and for eighteen days, successfully flew 1,359 combat sorties with over 4,500 flight hours in support of the multinational mission to monitor Iraqi compliance with the United Nations-Established "no-fly zone" below the 32nd parallel. CVW-5 and USS INDEPENDENCE were awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation for their outstanding performance in the establishment of the “Southern Watch” “no fly” ZONE.  In October 1992, the INDEPENDENCE returned to Yokosuka and CVW-5 returned to NAF Atsugi.

In February 1993, CVW-5 and the USS INDEPENDENCE participated in TEAM SPIRIT, a large-scale joint exercise with the Republic of Korea.  Between October 1993 and August 1995, the team of INDEPENDENCE and Carrier Air Wing FIVE deployed to the Arabian Gulf a second and third time in support of Operation “Southern Watch.”  In October 1996, the VA-115 "Eagles," CVW-5’s last A-6 Intruder squadron, detached from the Air Wing for NAS Lemoore, where they were re-designated VFA-115 and transitioned to the F/A-18C. They were replaced by VFA-27, which moved to NAF Atsugi from NAS Lemoore.

On July 6, 1998 Carrier Air Wing FIVE again participated in an air wing swap out, this time when the USS KITTY HAWK (CV-63) took over the forward deployed duties from the USS INDEPENDENCE.  VQ-5 Det 5, the only two forward-deployed ES-3A aircraft, completed its last cruise with CVW-5 in November 1998.  CVW-5 embarked on the KITTY HAWK for a planned three-month deployment on 2 March 1999 that included Exercise Tandem Thrust near Guam. Following the exercise, the HAWK/FIVE team was ordered to the Arabian Gulf to once again enforce the No-Fly Zone over Southern Iraq. CVW-5 pilots flew over 8,800 sorties in 116 days, including 1,300 combat sorties, dropping more than twenty tons of ordnance.  The HAWK/FIVE team returned to Yokosuka 25 August 1999.

CVW-5 deployed again with the KITTY HAWK to the Sea of Japan 22 October 1999 to participate in Exercises FOAL EAGLE and ANNUALEX 11G.  On 11 April 2000, the Air Wing departed Atsugi, Japan for routine local area operations and to participate in Exercise Cobra Gold with the navies of Singapore and Thailand. Operating from Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base and Kitty Hawk, CVW-5 completed approximately 500 of the deployment’s overall 2,101 sorties during Cobra Gold. The air wing’s F/A-18 “Hornets,” F-14 “Tomcats” and E-2C “Hawkeyes” were involved in training flight operations throughout the exercise.

Kitty Hawk and CVW-5 joined the Exercise FOAL EAGLE 25 October 2000 and comprised the striking arm of the carrier's battle group, Battle Force 7th Fleet.  The HAWK/FIVE team trained in numerous warfare mission areas including strike, air, surface, undersea, and special operations. The primary emphasis was on airborne support of US and allied ground forces in theater. This included both interdiction missions as well as close air support missions, flown by the F/A-18 squadrons, VFA-192, VFA-27 and VFA-195.  VF-154's F-14s flew missions as Forward Air Controller (Airborne), and defensive counter air missions to defend the air space over US forces operating in country. The EA-6Bs of VAQ-136 were employed to support U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, and Republic of Korea Air Force aircraft with electronic protection. Support missions for the SEALS as well as anti-submarine warfare missions were flown by HS-14, while the S-3B's from VS-21 flew anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare missions in support of the combined naval forces commander in addition to their normal tanking duties. VAW-115 flew airborne early warning as well as command and control missions in the E-2C throughout the exercise while VRC-30 Det 5 kept mail and parts coming with timely logistic support from both Japan and the Republic of Korea.  The HAWK/FIVE team deployed again in March 2001 for a spring underway period and made a historic stop at Singapore’s newest Naval pier, the first aircraft carrier to ever do so.

Since the tragic terrorist events of 11 September 2001, the US Navy has tested the mettle of Carrier Air Wing FIVE.  Being America’s only “911” Carrier Air Wing, CVW-5 immediately stepped up to the plate and prepared to lead the War on Terror. A detachment of CVW-5 personnel and aircraft embarked on the USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63) to serve as a Forward Afloat Staging Base for US joint special operation forces in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). The elements of CVW-5 on the Kitty Hawk were not, however, the only hard working members of the Air Wing.  During this four-month period the Air Wing operated out of eight different locations, including CV-63. Detachments of CVW-5 operated out of Bahrain, Guam, Okinawa, Diego Garcia, Singapore, and Iwakuni, in addition to normal daily operations at NAF Atsugi, Japan.

The Kitty Hawk/CVW-5 team got under way Oct. 1, with a mere 24-hour turnaround, after an accelerated sea trials and carrier qualifications period, carried out on short notice following the events of Sept. 11.  The Air Wing contingent included eight F/A-18 Hornets with pilots and aircraft from VFA-192, VFA-27 and VFA-195, three S-3 Vikings from VS-21, and two SH-60 Seahawks from HS-14.  The initial plan for CVW-5 was to provide air defense during the Kitty Hawk’s transit to station.  The Air Wing was able to work around the Special Operations mission, however, and established a more offensive mission for themselves.  Air Wing aviators flew 600 missions over Afghanistan in support of the United States’ War on Terrorism, including more than 100 combat sorties during this at sea period, and making the first combat drops of the Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) from CVW-5 aircraft

At the same time, two C-2A Greyhounds from VRC-30 Detachment 5 were shore based out of Bahrain providing logistical support to all four carriers on station, the Kitty Hawk, the USS Enterprise (CVN-65), USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71), and the USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70). The Providers from VRC-30’s Detachment 5 were the only C-2A squadron in the region qualified for night operations, proving once again that CVW-5 gets the job done.  The “Providers” lived up to their name, supplying the four carrier battle groups with 1500 passengers and 350,000 pounds of cargo.

On 23 January 2003, the Hawk/FIVE team departed Yokosuka for a scheduled WESTPAC training mission, but a short time later, orders were received to rapidly transit to the Arabian Gulf to prepare for Operation Iraqi Freedom.  CVW-5 aircraft were striking targets over Iraq even prior to the start of “Shock and Awe.”  While on station, CVW-5 was instrumental to the initial success of the operation and released several hundred thousand pounds of ordinance, including JDAM, JSOW and LGB.  VF-154 also deployed five F-14A Tomcats to Al Udeid in Qatar and supported Special Operations Forces in Iraq alongside USAF and Royal Air Force aircraft.

Tragedy struck CVW-5 when on 2 April 2003, 2 US Patriot missiles erroneously targeted and struck an F/A-18C from VFA-195 over Iraq resulting in the loss of LT Nate “OJ” White.  The incident brought about changes in the way Patriot missile batteries operated with friendly aircraft overhead. 

Although the 2003 cruise was originally intended to be short, the Hawk/FIVE team ended up serving 104 continuous days deployed or at sea.  The cruise also saw CVW-5’s final deployment with the F-14A Tomcat.  Late that year, VF-154 departed NAF Atsugi to transition to the F/A-18F Super Hornet.  At the same time, VFA-102 changed homeport from NAS Lemoore to NAF Atsugi to become part of CVW-5, flying the F/A-18F.  In late 2004, VFA-27 also completed their transition from the F/A-18C to the F/A-18E Super Hornet. 

From 2004 through 2008, the Hawk/FIVE team completed numerous deployments and underway periods in support of Multi-Lateral and International exercises across the Pacific, working hand in hand with Japan, Australia, India, Singapore and the Republic of Korea.  The Hawk/FIVE team took sail for one final cruise for participation in RIMPAC 08 and a transfer onto the USS GEORGE WASHINGTON (CVN 73) in San Diego, Calif. on 19 June 2008.  Thus began an era of operations aboard a nuclear powered carrier, the first in Forward Deployed Naval Force.

In 2009, CVW-5 got underway from Yokosuka aboard the GEORGE WASHINGTON for the first time.  During the underway period, the air wing participated in TALISMAN SABER with the Australians followed by a port call to Manila, the first US Carrier Strike Group to do so in more than 13 years.  Following a short in-port period at Yokosuka, CVW-5 again deployed in support of ANNUALEX 21G, a joint exercise with the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force.  On 15 December, following the return to homeport, the World Famous “Golden Dragons” of VFA-192 departed NAF Atsugi to affect its homeport change to NAS Lemoore.  VFA-192 was replaced by the “Eagles” of VFA-115, flying the F/A-18E Super Hornet.

2010 saw CVW-5 participating in EXERCISE INVINCIBLE SPIRIT with the Republic of Korea, naval exercises with the Vietnam People’s Navy marking a 15 year anniversary of normalization of relations between the United States and Vietnam, Valiant Shield and KEEN SWORD.  After their return to homeport, the “Dambusters” of VFA-195 flew to NAS Lemoore to complete a transition to the F/A-18E Super Hornet, while the GW – BADMAN team got underway in response North Korea’s sinking of the South Korean ship Cheonan.

Following the March 2011 Tohoku earthquake, CVW-5 quickly responded to the disaster by supporting relief efforts with the use of elements from HS-14, HSL-51, and VRC-30 det-5, operating from NAF Misawa in northern Japan while VAW-115 provided airborne command and control for Japanese and US rescue efforts.  Due to the unknown radiological exposure as a result of the damaged Fukishima Nuclear plant, CVW-5 fixed wing aircraft were evacuated to Guam and a voluntary evacuation of CVW-5 dependents to CONUS was conducted.  More than 1000 dependents left Japan.  The entire BADMAN team and their families were happy to return to Japan in April of 2011. 

During the 2011 deployment, CVW-5 again saw the need to provide humanitarian assistance in Thailand following substantial flooding.  GEORGE WASHINGTON and CVW-5 got underway from a port call in Singapore within 24 hours in order to position themselves to support aid for the country of Thailand.  The “Chargers” of HS-14 again found themselves in the right place at the right time in order to support those operations.

The year 2012 marked an era of change again for the air wing as the “Gauntlets” of VAQ-136, flying the EA-6B Prowler for 31 years as a part of the air wing, were replaced by the Outlaws of VAQ-141, flying the EA-18G.  This created the first ever “All Rhino” air wing in the fleet, thereby streamlining the maintenance and availability of parts and aircraft.  During deployment in 2012, the CVW-5/GW team participated in a tri-lateral naval exercise with the Japanese and Korean navies in the East China Sea, as well as Valiant Shield.

Carrier Air Wing FIVE finalized its entrance into the Modern Air Wing era by welcoming the “Saberhawks” of HSM-77 flying the MH-60R and the “Golden Falcons” of HSC-12 flying the MH-60S, to replace the “Chargers” of HS-14 who returned to NAS North Island in February 2013.  These two new extremely capable helicopter squadrons will further enhance the lethality of CVW-5 for years to come.

The ability of CVW-5 to accomplish so much in the face of such adversity is extremely important to the “big picture.”  Maintaining the Air Wing’s continuous readiness gives the National Command Authority better flexibility in preparing for the future.  Following a condensed work-up, CVW-5 deployed again with GEORGE WASHINGTON in 2013.  Whether it is continued support of presence and deterrence in the Western Pacific, humanitarian assistance, or a new threat that has yet to be determined, CVW-5 is ready for their next challenge.

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