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Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 131 “Lancers”

Squadron History

VAQ-131 Command History
The command now known as Electronic Attack Squadron ONE THREE ONE (VAQ-131) has been through several transitions since its inception in 1946.  At the time, the squadron was known as reserve Patrol Squadron NINE THREE ONE (VP-931).  From 1946 through 1955, VP-931 flew the P-2V Neptune.  In 1956, the squadron transitioned to the Douglas A-3 Skywarrior and was re-designated Heavy Attack Squadron FOUR (VAH-4).  On 1 November 1968, the squadron received the EKA-3 version of the Skywarrior and was again re-designated, this time as Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron ONE THREE ONE (VAQ-131).  The EKA-3 was a TACOS aircraft, being a tanker with equipment also for electronic attack.
In May 1971, the Lancers of VAQ-131 became the second operational squadron to transition to the Standard version of the Grumman EA-6B Prowler.  Five years later, in early 1976, VAQ-131 transitioned to the Expanded Capability (EXCAP) version of the EA-6B and deployed to the Mediterranean Sea with Carrier Air Wing THREE (CVW-3) aboard USS Saratoga (CV-60).In the summer of 1978, the Lancers transitioned to the Improved Capability (ICAP) EA-6B.  The ICAP variant included many technical upgrades over the baseline Prowler model.  It had been introduced as a basic version to the US Navy arsenal in 1970, and an advanced variant entered service in 1973.  Additionally, the USMC took delivery of their first ICAP Prowler in 1977, and there was experience gained from their use of the jet as well.  As a result, the Lancers were able to benefit from these years of fleet service to ensure they hit the ground running with the new technology.

VAQ-131 joined CVW-6 in November 1980 completing four deployments in five years to the Mediterranean Sea and Indian Ocean.  While attached to CVW-6, the Lancers supported several operations, including the American hostage crisis in Iran (1981), Multi-National Peacekeeping Forces in Lebanon (1982), Operation "Urgent Fury" in Grenada (1983), and the 4 December 1983 strike against Syrian positions in Lebanon.

Upon returning from their final deployment with CVW-6 and USS Independence (CV-62), the Lancers earned first place in the COMMATVAQWINGPAC Battle Readiness Competition (BRC) and transitioned to the ICAP II version of the Prowler.  VAQ-131 became the first squadron to fly all four original major versions (Standard, EXCAP, ICAP and ICAP II) of the EA-6B.  Upon completion of this transition, the Lancers joined their new air wing, CVW-2, embarked aboard USS Ranger (CV-61).

In early 1986, the Lancers participated in RIMPAC, and upon their return home, became one of the first squadrons to be trained in the handling, loading and firing of the High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM).  Subsequently, in April of that year, they were actively involved in the first fleet launch of a HARM.

After returning from a Western Pacific deployment aboard USS Ranger (CV-61) in August 1989, they began their transition to the Block 86 version of the ICAP II Prowler, again a community first.  The first Block 86 aircraft was accepted on 9 December 1989, and by the end of February 1990, the transition was complete. 

On 15 January 1991, as the United Nations' deadline for Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait expired, USS Ranger transited the Straits of Hormuz and entered the Persian Gulf.  In the early morning hours of 17 January 1991, CVW-2 launched its first combat sorties against Iraqi strongholds in Iraq and Kuwait.  The Lancers flew 14 sorties and 27.9 hours during the first 24 hours of combat.  By the time the cease fire was announced on 28 February 1991, the Lancers had launched 24 HARM, flown 339 combat hours and completed 228 combat sorties in direct support of US and allied coalition forces.

The Lancers began their next deployment work-up cycle in August of 1991 with their participation in exercise "Fabric Falcon."  Work-ups continued with MAARP being held in Fallon, Nevada, in mid-November and REFTRA occurring in mid-December.  In April of 1992, VAQ-131 flew in joint service training missions in Operation "Quick Force" and then finished their pre-deployment work-ups with BGE in May. 

After a short hiatus at Whidbey Island, WA, the Lancers deployed on the last deployment of USS Ranger which departed on 1 August 1992.  The carrier battle group sailed into the northern Arabian Gulf to enforce United Nations sanctions against Iraq. 

In early December, USS Ranger was ordered to the waters off of Somalia in East Africa to aid in the United Nations relief efforts as part of Operation RESTORE HOPE.  The Lancers finished their WestPac deployment by enjoying the "Last Ride" of USS Ranger as it pulled up to the quayside in San Diego on 31 January 1993.  That same year was highlighted by the squadron being awarded Prowler Squadron of the Year. 
On 4 May 1994, the Lancers deployed aboard USS Constellation (CV-64) for two months to conduct operations alongside the Canadians, Japanese, Australians, and the South Koreans in joint multi-national exercises.

In November 1994, the Lancers deployed to the Western Pacific and Arabian Gulf on board USS Constellation, spending the next three months enforcing the United Nations' sanctions over the skies of southern Iraq.  During this cruise, a serious injury occurred on the flight deck to a Lancer plane captain, AO3 Paulsen.  He was checking the AGM-88 HARM missiles under the aircraft when his ankle was run over.  He was medically evacuated from the carrier and reportedly went on to continue his naval career as a yeoman.

In 1997, the squadron once again departed on a WestPac cruise aboard USS Constellation.  From the Persian Gulf, the Lancers provided electronic support for Operation SOUTHERN WATCH and participated in INSPIRED UNION with the Pakistan Air Force.

On 30 March 1998, all Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadrons (TACELRON) were redesignated Electronic Attack Squadrons (VAQRON).

During 2000, the Lancers trained both at home in Whidbey Island and at NAS Fallon, Nevada, while in the “Prepare to Deploy” status.  In 2001, the Lancers embarked on the USS Constellation for WESTPAC ’01 to conduct Operation SOUTHERN WATCH flights, with a combat mission completion rate of 100%.

WESTPAC ’02-03 began on November 3rd as the USS Constellation pulled out of San Diego on what is considered to be the ship’s final deployment.  The Lancers stopped in Hong Kong and Singapore before finally arriving in the North Arabian Gulf in support of Operation Southern Watch.  For the next several months, the LANCERS flew numerous sorties in support of OIF and had a combat mission completion rate of 97%.  On April 17th, the LANCERS departed the Arabian Gulf, marking the end of their involvement in OIF.  WESTPAC ’02-03 ended on May 31st and the USS Constellation began its decommissioning process. 

During 2004, the Lancers continued training while in the “Prepare to Deploy” status.  They began WESTPAC ’04-05 in October onboard USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72).  On December 26th a devastating tsunami rocked Southeast Asia.  USS Abraham Lincoln pulled out of Hong Kong immediately and proceeded south to aid in the tremendous relief effort. 

The Lancers began 2005 off the coast of Banda Aceh, Indonesia, providing crucial tsunami relief.  They were on scene for more than 30 days providing Humanitarian Aid-Disaster Relief (HA/DR) to the people of Indonesia as part of Operation Unified Assistance aboard USS Abraham Lincoln.

During WESTPAC 2006 the Lancers provided electronic support for exercises FOAL EAGLE, VALIANT SHIELD and RIMPAC.  In October of 2008, the Lancers returned from their seven-month deployment aboard USS Abraham Lincoln supporting Operations IRAQI FREEDOM and ENDURING FREEDOM, supporting US ground troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan. 

The Lancers finished out 2009 by completing Mission Employment (ME) Phase in November.  They were at it again when they began a condensed work-up cycle in January 2010 by jumping head first into Sustainment aboard USS Abraham Lincoln.  Following Sustainment, the Command spent the end of February and the beginning of March on a two-week detachment to Naval Air Station Fallon, Nevada, for Electronic Warfare Advanced Readiness Program (EWARP).  The better part of April and May was again spent aboard USS Abraham Lincoln for Tailored Ships Training Assessment (TSTA) in preparation for their upcoming deployment. 

In May 2010, The Lancers completed their time on the boat and returned to NAS Whidbey Island.  Shortly after, they left again to continue their work-up cycle in Nevada with Air Wing Fallon in the month of June.  Three weeks later, the squadron boarded USS Abraham Lincoln for Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX).  They returned from COMPTUEX in mid-August for one month at home before deployment. 

After months of preparation, the Lancers departed aboard USS Abraham Lincoln for a seven-month deployment in support of Operations ENDURING FREEDOM and NEW DAWN.  Over the course of this deployment, the Lancers completed 365 sorties totaling 1185 flight hours, including 143 combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.  On March 19, 2011, the LANCERS once again returned to NAS Whidbey Island. 

The Lancers were able to enjoy a Pacific Northwest summer before they began the work-up cycle for their next deployment.  In August of 2011 the Lancers left for Air Wing Fallon, to undergo three weeks of training exercises.  They returned from Nevada in late August and by mid-September they left again for Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX) aboard USS Abraham Lincoln.  They completed COMPTUEX and returned home in October of 2012. 

In December of 2011, the Lancers left Whidbey Island for a five-month deployment with Carrier Air Wing TWO (CVW-2) aboard USS Abraham Lincoln in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM.  The deployment was an “around the world” deployment, which would undergo a four-year major overhaul at the completion of the deployment.  The USS Abraham Lincoln was extended twice, making it an eight-month deployment.  Over the course of the deployment, the Lancers flew more than 500 sorties for a total of 1,805 flight hours, including 226 combat missions over Afghanistan in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM.  The Lancers also visited Thailand, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Turkey RED FLAG 15-06 in Nellis AFB.
The Lancers were scheduled for a final deployment in the EA-6B Prowler in January of 2014, but were instead rescheduled to start their transition to the EA-18G Growler earlier than anticipated.  After training in their new jet with VAQ-129, the VAQ Fleet Replacement Squadron (FRS), the Lancers were deemed Safe for flight on 23 April 2015.  From there, they honed their new knowledge and skills in the “Grizzly” through fighter training detachments in Key West, Florida, and were the SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses) lead at Operation RED FLAG 15-06 on Nellis AFB.

In 2016, the Lancers completed their first workup cycle in the EA-18G in preparation for deployment onboard USS George H. W. Bush (CVN-77), far exceeding the standard for newly transitioned squadrons and setting the example for VAQ squadrons fleet wide.  Workups included EWARP, Air Wing Fallon, TSTA and Comptuex within the Operational Fleet Response Plan (OFRP) construct. 

In 2017, the Lancers undertook their first combat deployment in the EA-18G Growler in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, flying from both the 6th and 5th Fleet area of operations.  During the seven-month deployment, VAQ-131 contributed to CVW-8’s 1,924 combat missions over Iraq and Syria. 

After the August conclusion of the deployment, the squadron took part in BOLD ALLIGATOR 2017 in October, working alongside the II Marine Expeditionary Force to demonstrate integration capabilities with an amphibious force through live exercises.  The year ended in Key West, FL, on detachment in conjunction with CVW-8. 

The Lancers received the opportunity to join the French Navy aboard USS George H. W. Bush in “CHESAPEAKE 2018,” a joint exercise in which US Navy forces qualified Dassault Rafale pilots for carrier operations in anticipation of their service aboard the FS Charles de Gaulle.  The squadron was on board to greet the French Navy’s Chief of Staff, Adm. Christophe Prazuck, for his visit on 14 May 2018.

From June 2018 to January 2019 the Lancers participated in three Red Flag events – two in Alaska and one in Nellis.  These joint exercises saw the squadron operating alongside varied assets such as the USAF’s 79th Fighter Squadron, the Japanese Air Self Defense Force (JASDF)’s 602nd Airborne Air Control Squadron, and the Republic of Korea’s 15th Special Missions Wing.   These events collectively would foreshadow a major change coming to the squadron that summer. 

VAQ-131 officially became an expeditionary squadron on 1 September 2019.  The Lancers would now deploy to air bases worldwide and be required to fluidly integrate with USAF and foreign entities on a daily basis.  To assist with this transition, the squadron took on USAF aircrew from the 390th Electronic Combat Squadron. 

During 2020, in the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic, June saw the Lancers embark upon their first expeditionary deployment.  The squadron ran operations from Misawa Air Base, Japan, in the Indo-Pacific AOR, and participated in joint exercises with the 35th Fighter Wing and the JASDF.
Throughout 2021, the Lancers made several minor detachments in support of other squadrons’ work-ups.  By early 2022, the squadron had transitioned into its own work-up cycle, heading to back-to-back detachments to NAS Fallon and Nellis AFB, both in Nevada, in February and March.  In July, the Lancers headed to Eielson AFB on the outskirts of Fairbanks, Alaska, for a Red Flag exercise.

The INDOPACOM 2022-23 deployment was historic for the Growler platform as a whole.  The Lancers made headlines as the first American electronic attack squadron to deploy to South Korea since 2018, and for many of the detachment locations since before the pandemic.  From their Whidbey Island homeport, they headed west across the Pacific Ocean to Misawa, Japan.  After assisting regional allied forces in Exercise Pac Weasel, the command executed a quick turn-around to Osan, South Korea.  Following that, the command relocated to Kadena Air Base in Okinawa for the month of December. In February, the command was in Guam, a challenging and logistically complex detachment coupled with high temperatures to rival Misawa’s lows.  The Lancers began the journey homeward in late February, and completed that evolution by mid-March, ending a complicated and arduous deployment.  As a result of the combined efforts exerted from every member of ‘Team Lancer,’ the command was awarded the Battle E award for 2022.

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