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Patrol Squadron (VP) 9 “Golden Eagles”

Squadron History

Patrol Squadron NINE (VP-9) was commissioned at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Washington, on March 15, 1951, under the command of Commander M.B. Bailey.  The new squadron flew its maiden flight in a P4Y-2 Privateer.  Within a few months the “Golden Eagles” embarked on their first deployment to Naval Station Kodiak, Alaska.  Since that time, VP-9 has participated in a wide variety of missions around the world.

For the remainder of the 1950s and 1960s, the squadron participated in numerous deployed operations throughout Asia and the Northern Pacific.  VP-9 provided support for night combat operations in the Korean War, having dropped illumination flares for Marine Corps F7F attack planes to use during strikes on North Korean targets.  Other significant milestones included: changing homeports to NAS Alameda, CA in 1952, a move to NAS Moffett Field, CA in 1963, transitioning to the new P-2V Neptune in 1953, the P-3A Orion in 1963, and the P-3B Orion in 1966.  While deployed to several locations in Alaska in 1958, the squadron flew polar scouting missions for the USS NAUTILUS’ historic first voyage under the polar ice cap. Also in the early 1960’s VP-9 operated under CFAW-2 in support of Operation DOMINIC. P2V-7s aircraft were used to clear the area around Johnston Island of any unauthorized vessels prior to the nuclear tests.

From 1963 through 1972, the squadron deployed to Okinawa; the Philippines; Kam Ranh Bay, Republic of South Vietnam; U-Tapao, Thailand, and Guam in support of Operation MARKET TIME and other operations during the Vietnam War.

In 1970, while deployed to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, VP-9 earned its third Meritorious Unit Commendation for patrolling more than nine million square miles of ocean, ranging from the Arctic Ocean to the Philippine Sea, and, in the following decades, saw deployments covering over three-quarters of the globe.  In 1976, the “Golden Eagles” began a new era of maritime patrol aviation with the squadron’s transition to the computerized and upgraded P-3C Update I.  In November 1986, VP-9 became the first squadron to deploy to the Western Pacific area of operations with the APS-137 Inverse Synthetic Aperture Radar (ISAR).  The P-3C Update III was introduced in 1990, expanding the mission capabilities of the squadron.  In 1992, VP-9 moved to a new home, NAS Barbers Point, Hawaii.

During the 1997–1998 Inter-Deployment Training Cycle (IDTC), the “Golden Eagles” were chosen to spearhead the Fleet introduction of the Anti-Surface Warfare Improvement Program (AIP) P-3C aircraft.  Among other improvements, the state-of-the-art AIP aircraft includes a comprehensive upgrade of aircraft sensors and command, control, communications, computers and intelligence (C4I) capabilities. In recognition of the highly successful deployment and introduction of the new AIP aircraft, VP-9 was awarded the 1998 Coastal Command Trophy.  VP-9’s Maintenance Department also earned the prestigious AVCM Donald M. Neal Aircraft Maintenance “Golden Wrench” Award for sustained maintenance excellence.

After the successful initial deployment of AIP to both FIFTH and SEVENTH Fleets, VP-9 again made history with the launch of a Standoff Land Attack Missile (SLAM) during Fleet Battle Experiment ECHO at Point Mugu, CA on April 14, 1999, the first such launch after in-flight target reprogramming. In addition to the normal IDTC requirements, the “Golden Eagles” made a fifth homeport change to Marine Corps Base Hawaii (MCBH), Kaneohe Bay in May 1999. VP-9 was the first Patrol Squadron to operate from Kaneohe Bay, hosting the multi-national ASWEX and JTFEX 99-1. Additionally that same year, the “Golden Eagles” proved their Under-Sea Warfare (USW) prowess when they were called upon to locate and track a real-world target during Operation PHANTOM MENACE which resulted in the most successful theater USW prosecution in recent history.  In recognition of its USW expertise, VP-9 was awarded the coveted Captain Arnold Jay Isbell Trophy for USW Excellence for 1999.

VP-9 began an impressive winter deployment to the Western Pacific area of operations in December 1999. The “Golden Eagles” flew operational missions from Misawa and Kadena, Japan and established detachments throughout the Pacific theater providing an unprecedented level of support to Commander, SEVENTH Fleet, the USS JOHN C. STENNIS and USS KITTY HAWK carrier battle groups, as well as the USS BELLEAU WOOD amphibious ready group. The squadron employed the sensors and capabilities of the P-3C AIP aircraft throughout the Western Pacific in support of Fleet, theater, and national tasking.

Upon their return to Hawaii in June 2000, the “Golden Eagles” immediately began preparations for their next scheduled deployment. The IDTC kicked off successfully with a coordinated Harpoon anti-ship missile shot during RIMPAC 2000.  In December, the squadron sent a detachment to NAS Fallon, Nevada in support of Carrier Air Wing TWO’s strike training, and flawlessly employed the newly-arrived AIP capabilities of the P-3C Orion in the role of precision strike targeting.  These operations laid the solid foundation for VP-9’s first successful launch of an AGM-84E Standoff Land Attack Missile (SLAM) in January 2001.  

In June 2001, the squadron again deployed to the FIFTH and SEVENTH Fleet Areas of Responsibility (AORs), working from three locations:  Diego Garcia, British Indian Ocean Territory; Masirah, Oman; and Bahrain.  Additional detachments were sent to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, the Seychelles Islands, Kuwait and Australia. 

Following the unfortunate events of September 11, 2001, the “Golden Eagles” spearheaded the expansion of the Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance (MPRA) mission by flying armed Battle Force Support flights from Masirah, Oman and Diego Garcia to protect local populations and resources.  When Coalition forces began direct action missions against the Taliban, VP-9 supported their operations with sorties over Afghanistan which included imaging, long range targeting, armed surveillance and reconnaissance, strike missions consisting of SLAM attacks, and battle damage assessment.  The “Golden Eagles” flew over 3,000 flight hours in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, to include over 100 combat missions.  Two of such missions were strike missions directly targeting Taliban and al Qaeda forces, which was a first for a MPR aircraft in that AOR.  At the same time, they maintained their posture in support of Operation SOUTHERN WATCH, amassing over 1,500 flight hours. In all, VP-9 flew over 1,100 missions with an amazing 99.5% mission completion rate. They earned the 2001 Battle “E” for all their accomplishments, and were also the recipient of the CNO Retention Excellence Award that same year.

VP-9 returned to Hawaii following their successful deployment, and immediately went to work on creating three SLAM tactical documents for the community based on their Middle East experiences.  These would become the building blocks for SLAM operations for all MPRA deployers.  

In December 2002, the “Golden Eagles” were once again forward deployed.  Joining the Global War on Terrorism, VP-9 provided near real-time imagery to the intelligence community during Operation ENDURING FREEDOM – PHILIPPINES (OEF-P) demonstrating their expertise in the utilization of P-3C AIP systems throughout 55 sorties and 670 flight hours over the Philippines.  Concurrently, VP-9’s extensive support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM (OIF) was also critical.  Due to the increased force protection requirements for assets transiting through SEVENTH Fleet, VP-9 aircraft were tasked with escorting OIF participants through the AOR when en route to the FIFTH Fleet AOR.  Over 230 hours of support was provided for the USS CONSTELLATION and USS KITTY HAWK Battle Groups, USS BOXER ARG, PACSAG, and JMSDF surface vessels as they transited through the Straits of Malacca in Southeast Asia.

Throughout this deployment, while operating from detachment sites spread over the Pacific theater, the “Golden Eagles” participated in 28 intra-service and multi-national exercises, four real-world ASW prosecutions, and 29 search and rescue (SAR) missions.   These SAR missions ranged from Guam to Brunei to other areas near the Micronesian Islands in the South Pacific.  Exercises such as the Indian SAREX, FOAL EAGLE in South Korea, TANDEM THRUST in Guam, SEACAT and MERGATE in Singapore, COBRA GOLD in Thailand, two PASSEXs in Japan, and eight TYCLONEXs in Thailand strengthened ties with friendly nations and projected United States’ presence abroad.  VP-9 also demonstrated its ASW capabilities by flying over 291 hours on a real-world prosecution of a high-profile target of interest.  The Office of Naval Intelligence commended the “Golden Eagles” for the data collected during these missions.  When all was said and done, VP-9 had amassed over 5,900 mishap-free hours with a 98% mission completion rate.

In June 2003, VP-9 immediately began an intensive Inter-Deployment Readiness Cycle (IDRC) in preparation for their 2004 FIFTH Fleet deployment.  Noteworthy exercise participation included SILENT FURY with a Japanese submarine, as well as LIGHTNING THRUST WARRIOR with the Army’s 25th Infantry Division.  Multiple Mk-54 torpedo tests and evaluations were also conducted during this time period.  Finally, the “Golden Eagles” celebrated their 25th mishap-free year and 175,000 mishap-free flight hours.

Returning to the FIFTH and SEVENTH Fleet AORs in June 2004, the “Golden Eagles” were well poised to once again support OIF, in addition to Operation ENDURING FREEDOM (OEF) and Operation ENDURING FREEDOM- AFGHANISTAN (OEF-A).  During this milestone deployment, VP-9 redefined the operational impact of the P-3C Orion (AIP), conducting overland operations in direct support of Allied combat operations in the Middle East.  The primary mission area of Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) greatly increased the tactical advantage of Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines in the heat of battle fighting the “War on Terror” in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Maritime patrol of vital sea lanes continued as VP-9 aircrews kept watch over a huge expanse of FIFTH Fleet’s AOR, from the Northern Arabian Gulf to the Red Sea, the Arabian Sea, and beyond.

To ensure proficiency within the Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) and Maritime Patrol (MARPAT) mission areas, VP-9 participated in nine intra-service and multi-national ASW/ASUW exercises.  The “Golden Eagles” ability to consistently conduct reliable two-way data link provided a constant invaluable maritime patrol impact to the USS JOHN F. KENNEDY and USS HARRY S. TRUMAN Carrier Strike Groups (CSG), as well as Coalition units operating in the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, and Gulf of Aden in conjunction with U.S. forces.

VP-9’s impressive 3,200 mishap-free flight hours and a 98% mission completion rate throughout this deployment was spread throughout a wide range of theaters.  Coverage included detachments in Afghanistan, Bahrain, Diego Garcia, and Djibouti, as well as shorter operational mission sets based out of Australia, India, Japan, Kuwait, the Seychelles, and Singapore.

After returning home to MCBH Kaneohe Bay, the “Golden Eagles” of Patrol Squadron NINE began a comprehensive Inter-Deployment Readiness Cycle in preparation for the 2006 FIFTH and SEVENTH Fleet Deployment.  Notable exercises that VP-9 played an integral role in during this time period were STELLAR DRAGON, NORPAC 05-01, PACSECEX, and PATROLING THUNDER.

In June 2006, VP-9 once again found themselves in the FIFTH and SEVENTH Fleet AORs supporting OEF, OIF, and OEF-P.  From flights overland Iraq to Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) prosecutions in the Sea of Japan and everything in between, the men and women of VP-9 expertly employed the P-3C Orion in execution of over 1,000 sorties, 6,300 mishap-free flight hours, and a 94% mission completion rate.  The squadron also spearheaded over 100 real-world exercises and operations in support of Fleet level objectives, and provided over 1,500 Strike Group support flight hours to the USS ENTERPRISE, USS EISENHOWER, and numerous coalition surface units in FIFTH Fleet’s AOR.  

January 2007 brought a new IDRC as well as new challenges.  While rebuilding and training aircrews at home in preparation for the next deployment, the “Golden Eagles” were tasked to support the Global War on Terror through numerous “surge” detachments to Iraq, El Salvador and various locations in SEVENTH Fleet in support of OIF, the War on Drugs, and ASW contingency operations.   

By May 2008, a new operational airbase had been established.  VP-9 forward deployed to Ali Air Base, Iraq to once again directly support OIF.  The “Golden Eagles” flew over 650 combat missions and 5,000 hours surpassing the 30 year milestone of Mishap Free flying.  For their operational efficiency and tactical improvements, VP-9 was awarded both the Battle “E” and the Arleigh Burke Award for 2008.

For the first time in their history, VP-9 deployed to SIXTH Fleet’s AOR in June 2012. The “Golden Eagles” completed eleven detachments and was highly successful in over 500 combat missions and nearly 5,000 hours surpassing 34 years of Mishap Free Flying.  

In November 2013, VP-9 departed for a dual-site deployment split between FIFTH and SIXTH Fleet AORs.  The “Golden Eagles” accomplished an impressive 100% mission completion rate throughout the deployment, and surpassed 36 years and 206,000 mishap free hours.  VP-9 flawlessly completed 430 operational sorties supporting Ballistic Missile Defense and TLAM capable surface warfare platforms, enabling the United Nations Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, while simultaneously combating counter-terrorism and violent extremism throughout the SIXTH Fleet AOR.  Additionally, for the first time since 2007, VP-9 reestablished a detachment in NAS Keflavik, Iceland.  Fittingly, VP-9 was awarded the 2014 CNAP “Battle E” and AVCM Donald M. Neal “Golden Wrench” awards for their outstanding achievements.

Throughout their rich history, VP-9 has been recognized with nine Battle Efficiency Awards, four Meritorious Unit Commendations, five Coastal Command Trophies and three Captain Arnold J. Isbell Trophies for ASW/ASUW Excellence, two Golden Wrench awards for aviation maintenance excellence, the Arleigh Burke Award, the Navy Unit Citation, and the Golden Anchor Award.

In February 2017, the Golden Eagles departed MCBH Kaneohe for the last time to begin their ‘Aloha Deployment’, their last in the mighty P-3 Orion. Based out of Kadena Air Base Japan, VP-9 executed 259 missions and conducted 2,055 hours of flight time across eight different countries in FOURTH and SEVENTH Fleet AORs. In support of Commander, SEVENTH Fleet, the Golden Eagles played a key role in several geopolitical headlines. The first addressed North Korea's ongoing efforts to develop nuclear weapons and continued inter-continental ballistic missile testing, imposing a clear and present threat to US forces and allies throughout the Pacific region. The second involved China's increasingly aggressive behaviors in the East China Sea and militarization of man-made islands in the South China Sea. Lastly, efforts focused on ISIS’ former occupation of Marawi City in Mindanao, Philippines.

The Golden Eagles participated in nine exercises across the Pacific region, stretching from South Korea to Australia. The Maritime Counter Special Operations Forces Exercise (MCSOFEX), Exercise KEY RESOLVE, and Exercise ULCHI FREEDOM GUARDIAN were all based out of South Korea, where the primary focus was to build proficiency and readiness in the execution of the defense of South Korea. Exercise TALISMAN SABER was a two week training period where U.S. and Australian Forces conducted missions to improve combat readiness and interoperability between nations. Involving over 30,000 U.S. and Australian defense personnel, VP-9 executed 12 flights and 88.7 hours from RAAF Base Townsville, Queensland.

The Golden Eagles also participated in four bilateral exercises based out of Thailand and Indonesia; GUARDIAN SEA and Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) THAILAND in Thailand, and Sea Surveillance Exercise (SEASURVEX) and CARAT INDONESIA, in Indonesia. These exercises assisted in the complex training in regional security, surface and anti-submarine warfare to increase and strengthen the interoperability between the respective nations. 

Simultaneously, one-third of VP-9’s fighting force was operating in support of Commander, FOURTH Fleet, based out of San Salvador, El Salvador, executing missions for Operation MARTILLO, a long-term Joint Interagency Task Force - South (JIATF-S) operation that detects and monitors illicit drug trafficking across all domains. This operation included support from the U.S. Coast Guard, Customs & Border Protection, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and partner nations for drug interdiction. The Golden Eagles played a vital role in the detection, monitoring and interception of suspected vessels in violation. At the end of seven months, VP-9 had flown 116 sorties, totaled 1171 flight hours, and directly contributed to the confiscation of 46,861 kilograms of cocaine, with a street value of over $1.3B.

After returning from a resoundingly successful deployment in October 2017, VP-9 executed a home-port shift from MCBH Kaneohe Bay back to NAS Whidbey Island, where the squadron had originally been commissioned in 1951. With a new home also came a new aircraft, as VP-9 started their transition in November 2017 to the P-8 Poseidon, the world’s most innovative and technologically advanced maritime patrol aircraft. After 54 years of relentless dedication and service in the venerable P-3 Orion, the Golden Eagles welcome the fourth distinguished aircraft into their squadron.

VP-9 currently operates out of NAS Whidbey Island and continues the legacy of professionalism and war fighting expertise that has been the hallmark of the Golden Eagles for over 60 years as part of the world’s finest Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Force.

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