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Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron (VQ) 3 “Ironmen”


Support the TACAMO ("Take Charge and Move Out") mission providing airborne communications links to strategic forces.

“TACAMO” Take Charge And Move Out. These words exemplify the project intended to support an airborne fleet communications broadcast system.


By 1962, this project progressed from the planning, research, and feasibility stages to the first successful airborne very low frequency (VLF) tests conducted in the Pacific.  TACAMOPAC began in 1964 with the delivery of two Lockheed EC-130G aircraft to VR-21 based at NAS Barbers Point.  In 1966, following initial tests, the aircraft were reassigned to VW-l at NAS Agana, Guam.  After modifying equipment and perfecting the VLF mission, the decision was made to establish two permanent TACAMO squadrons.  VQ-3 was commissioned at NAS Agana on 1 July 1968 as the “Ironman Squadron.”
In June 1969, VQ-3 accepted delivery of the last of its original assignment of new EC-130Q aircraft and completed the transition from the original TACAMO II system to the permanently installed TACAMO III system, providing vastly improved in-flight maintenance capability and crew comforts.  By October 1976, VQ-3 had converted all aircraft to the newer dual trailing wire antenna TACAMO IV system with greatly increased communications performance.

On 1 August 1981, after a 15-year absence, VQ-3 returned to its original home at NAS Barbers Point.  During a period of rapid growth from 1981 through 1983, the squadron grew from 250 to 650 personnel, took delivery of five new production EC-130Q aircraft, and increased its operational tempo beyond 1,000 monthly flight hours. On 1 October 1983, VQ-3 stood up to its tasking by providing 100% airborne communications coverage for the Pacific region in support of JCS and USCINCPAC strategic missions.

On 15 April 1988, VQ-3 Detachment Travis AFB, CA was established to provide a permanent facility to support the VQ-3 Ready Alert and other forward deployed aircraft.  In 1989 and 1990, VQ-3 executed a no-stand-down transition from the EC-130Q to the E-6A Mercury, the Navy’s largest and first aircraft designed and built for the TACAMO mission. August of 1990 marked the retirement of the last EC-130 and exclusive E-6A operations.

In March 1992, the “Ironman” squadron began a no-stand-down move to Tinker AFB, Oklahoma.  Throughout the move, the “Ironmen” of VQ-3 continued to lead the community, carrying on the tradition to “Take Charge And Move Out!” On 30 September 1992, Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron THREE officially changed its homeport to Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. 

VQ-3 led the changing of the guard from the E-6A Mercury to the greatly enhanced E-6B. In October 1997, the first Bravo model arrived at Tinker AFB, OK.VQ-3 led the changing of the guard from the E-6A Mercury to the greatly enhanced E-6B. In October 1997, the first Bravo model arrived at Tinker AFB, OK. The improved E-6B enabled assumption of the U.S. Strategic Command Airborne Command Post mission allowing embarked battlestaff to exercise command and control of the nuclear triad. The multi-mission E-6Bs officially assumed the “Looking Glass” mission from the Air Force on 1 October 1998. TACAMO now serves beyond its original strategic role, successfully completing missions in support of USCENTCOM, Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, and the Office of Homeland Defense. As VQ-3 continues its outstanding tradition of mission readiness and commitment to community service, the “Ironmen” will continue to meet future challenges and set the pace for naval aviation.

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