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Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 129 “Vikings”

Squadron History

On 01 September 1970, Heavy Attack Squadron 10 (VAH-10) was redesignated to Electronic Attack Squadron 129 (VAQ-129) under the leadership of Commanding Officer J. D. Blackwood. The new name signaled a shift of the squadron’s aircraft and mission, as the A-3 Skywarrior was retired and replaced by the EA-6B Prowler. VAQ-129 accepted the first standard version Prowler in January 1971 and the Vikings assumed the role as Fleet Replacement Squadron for the new EA-6B community.

The training syllabus continually evolved to better meet the demands of the growing Electronic Attack community aboard NAS Whidbey Island. The GPQT-6 Ground Trainer accelerated aircrew production by nearly three weeks while providing the Fleet with Anti-Radiation Missile training facilities. The Vikings received the first Expanded Capability (EXCAP) version of the EA-6B in April 1973 along with upgraded ground trainers designed to train aircrew in a simulated threat environment.

In January 1977, the Navy introduced the first Improved Capability (ICAP) Prowler and in March 1977, VAQ-129 began training United States Marine Corps aircrew and maintenance personnel on the new aircraft. The first Marine Corps pilot and Electronic Countermeasures Officer (ECMO) graduated from ICAP training on 26 August 1977 and marked the beginning of a unique relationship between Naval and Marine Corps aviation.

The training capability for Prowler aircrew improved dramatically in February 1980 with the introduction of a fully integrated four-seat 2F119 Weapons System trainer. This full-motion simulator revolutionized the VAQ-129 syllabus by allowing four Fleet Replacement aircrew to work simultaneously in a simulated combat environment.

In 1984 the Vikings accepted the first ICAP II version of the EA-6B and associated upgraded 15E22C simulator. The GPQT-6 was replaced by the highly sophisticated 15E34A radar training site in April 1986 and the Vikings received the AGM-88A High Speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM) in 1987.

VAQ-129 provided extensive operational and maintenance support to units deployed in support of OPERATION DESERT SHIELD and OPERATION DESERT STORM beginning in July 1990. Viking instructors joined squadrons in the Persian Gulf and provided the squadrons with updated HARM training.

The special relationship between VAQ-129 and Marine Corps aviation strengthened in August 1992 when a Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel assumed the VAQ-129 Executive Officer billet. Additionally, EA-6B tasking increased throughout the mid-1990’s as the Air Force retired the EF-111.  As a result, VAQ-129 increased student production by more than twenty percent to allow for the creation of five additional Prowler squadrons. These new units were invaluable to OPERATION ALLIED FORCE over Kosovo in 1998 and 1999. In April 1999, the Vikings received the first two Block 89A aircraft and began training the EA-6B community on an advanced navigation system that used an integrated Global Positioning System and Inertial Navigation System.

During OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM and OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM, the Vikings continued to provide additional EA-6B aircraft, aircrew, and maintenance personnel to forward-deployed squadrons. In 2003, the Vikings earned the Commander Theodore G. Ellyson Award for Aviator Production Excellence in Fiscal Year 2002 by training 89 new Fleet Replacement aircrew and 48 fleet aviators. In 2004, the Vikings transitioned four Fleet squadrons to the ICAP III EA-6B.

In June 2008 VAQ-129 accepted the first EA-18G Growler. The EA-18G is an Electronic Warfare platform derived from a combination of the two-seat F/A-18F Super Hornet airframe and the EA-6B ICAP III EW suite.

In 2015, VAQ-129 successfully completed the transition of all fleet squadrons from the Prowler to the Growler. Through numerous software and tactic updates, VAQ-129 continued to train up to 40 CAT I pilots and Electronic Warfare Officers (EWOs) per year. Over the nine year transition period VAQ-129 qualified 1,024 aircrew, meeting the operational and rapidly changing demands of 12 deployable Growler squadrons.

Today, VAQ-129 maintains 55 EA-18G aircraft. Our instructor Aircrew continue to demonstrate the capabilities and precision of the Growler through the standup of the Growler Demonstration Team, and was chosen to represent the United States Navy as part of the Super Bowl LIV flyover in Miami, Florida.

While VAQ-129 has always been focused on training Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force aircrew, today our student body includes our Royal Australian Air Force partners. Our instructor staff includes aircrew from the Royal Australian Air Force, the British Royal Air Force, the United States Navy, the United States Air Force, and the United States Marine Corps.

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