Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 112 (VAW-112) "Golden Hawks" is the Grumman E-2C Hawkeye squadron aboard the USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). While I was embarked aboard CVN 74, during my DV/Media Embark, I was able to capture them in action. The E-2C has always been at the top of my list of aircraft to photograph, but they have always seemed to remain elusive to me. Until now, it seems if you are lucky enough to embark aboard a bird farm, that you don't have as much trouble photographing these seemingly elusive aircraft.
I feel that sharing my photography with the military is a small way for me to give back and support the men and women that serve our country, and put their lives in harm's way to protect our freedoms. I always try to share my aviation photography with the squadrons, whenever I have the opportunity, and VAW-112 was no different. After seeing the photographs they said, "These pictures are amazing thank you so much for taking them and making them available to us. We will most definitely put them to use. If you ever need anything from us please don't hesitate to ask." It's always good feeling when they like your work and plan to use it to help show the public what they do.
VAW-112 has had a long and amazing history of flying Grumman E-2 Hawkeyes in Carrier Air Wing 9 (CVW-9), their history dates all the way back to April 1967. I thought it was important to share their story, so here it is (history provided by VAW-112):
HISTORY OF CARRIER AIRBORNE EARLY WARNING SQUADRON ONE ONE TWO
The squadron was established April 20, 1967 and assigned to Carrier Air Wing NINE (CVW-9). The squadron made three combat deployments operating the E-2A in the western Pacific in support of the Vietnam conflict aboard the USS ENTERPRISE, CVAN 65.
In May 1970, the squadron was temporarily disestablished and placed in a “stand down” status until reactivated on July 3, 1973. The Golden Hawks, now flying E-2Bs, were assigned to CVW-2 and made three Western Pacific/Indian Ocean deployments on board the USS RANGER, CV 61, before assignment to CVW-8 aboard the USS NIMITZ, CVN 68, for a Mediterranean and Indian Ocean deployment.
In May 1979, the squadron transitioned to the E-2C and again became part of CVW-9 in February 1981. As part of CVW-9, VAW-112 made three Western Pacific/Indian Ocean deployments on board USS CONSTELLATION, CV 64, USS RANGER, CV 61 and USS KITTY HAWK, CV 63. During this period, VAW-112 was awarded the Battle Efficiency (Battle “E”) award for 1979 and 1985. During 1989, VAW-112 deployed aboard USS NIMITZ for NORPAC 89, and in August 1989, they became the first West Coast squadron to transition to the E-2C Plus aircraft.
In February and March of 1990, VAW-112 deployed aboard USS CONSTELLATION “Around the Horn” of South America to Norfolk, Virginia. Then in September 1990, the squadron deployed to Howard Air Force Base, Panama, for a Joint Task Force Four counter narcotics operation. The squadron finished the year and entered 1991 with the CVW-9 workup schedule on board the USS NIMITZ.
In March 1991, the squadron departed for the Western Pacific, Indian Ocean, Northern Arabian Gulf cruise in support of Operation DESERT STORM aboard the USS NIMITZ.
In December 1991, VAW-112 deployed again to Howard Air Force Base, Panama for a Joint Task Force Four counter narcotics operation. The squadron participated in joint and combined exercises in 1992 including JADO/JEZ in March and Roving Sands in May 1992.
In February 1993, VAW-112 deployed aboard USS Nimitz to the Arabian Gulf in support of Operation SOUTHERN WATCH, flying more than 1,000 hours. Upon returning, VAW-112 transitioned to the E-2C Plus Group II. In November 1993, VAW-112 deployed to Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The year of 1994 was a year of numerous detachments for VAW-112, due to the USS NIMITZ dry dock period. These included Red Air and Red Flag exercises during February; JADO/JEZ trials in March; Roving Sands and Maple Flag in Cold Lake, Alberta, Canada in June; and another Joint Task Force Four counter narcotics operation detachment in August. Following a rigorous work-up cycle in 1995, the squadron departed San Diego for the Arabian Gulf aboard the USS NIMITZ in December.
After remaining on station for three months, VAW-112 departed the Arabian Gulf to support United States foreign policy off the coast of Taiwan. After returning home in May, the squadron then headed for Puerto Rico in mid July for counter narcotics operations at NAVSTA Roosevelt Roads.
During a 1997 work-up cycle for an “Around the World” deployment in late July, the squadron participated in a Pacific Fleet Surge Exercise. The squadron provided unparalleled battle space command and control to the battle group for more than 96 continuous hours. It was during this time that VAW-112 also surpassed a safety milestone – 27 years and more than 57,000 mishaps-free flight hours. They departed San Diego in September 1997 on another “Around the World” deployment. In 1997, the Golden Hawks were presented the Battle “E”, the CNO Safety “S” Award, and the coveted Airborne Early Warning Excellence Award.
The Golden Hawks deployed in July 1998 for a short detachment to Hawaii aboard the USS KITTY HAWK and later transferred the newest E-2C Plus Group II Navigation Upgrade aircraft to VAW-115 home based at NAF Atsugi, Japan.
The “Golden Hawks” of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 112 (VAW-112) moved from MCAS Miramar to Naval Base Ventura County, Point Mugu, California in July 1998. Following a work up period in 1999, the Golden Hawks deployed aboard USS JOHN C. STENNIS, CVN 74 in January 2000 for a Western Pacific/Indian Ocean cruise that included flight operations in support of Operation SOUTHERN WATCH over Iraq. The squadron wrapped up 2000 with counter narcotics operations in Puerto Rico in September and a carrier qualification detachment to Mazatlan, Mexico in December.
In 2001, the Golden Hawks executed several aircraft control detachments including detachments to NAS Key West, Florida; NS Norfolk, Virginia; and NAS Fallon, Nevada. While still continuing their workup cycle leading to a 2002 deployment, the Golden Hawks also participated in Fleet Battle Experiment India, providing air control services to the battle group participating in the highest profile Navy exercise in many years.
In July of 2001, the Golden Hawks left for Tailored Ships Training Availability (TSTA). This was the first underway workups since the previous cruise. The Golden Hawks then pulled in Seattle for four days and left again for Comprehensive Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX). The squadron was called to defend the country after the September 11th terrorist act on the World Trade Center in New York City and on the Pentagon in Washington D.C. Around the clock, the Golden Hawks stood alerts and flew combat missions for the air defense of the entire western coast of the U.S. in support of Operation NOBLE EAGLE.
Immediately following their actions in Operation NOBLE EAGLE, the Golden Hawks left for Air Wing Fallon in Fallon, Nevada. The squadron finished an accelerated training schedule and deployed two months early in mid-November 2001 along with the rest of CVW-9 aboard the USS JOHN C. STENNIS. After an expedited transit across the Pacific, including port calls in Hong Kong and Singapore, the squadron commenced arduous combat operations over Afghanistan in mid-December. The squadron accumulated over 2,095 hours, 500 sorties, and logging 666 arrested landings in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM. The Golden Hawks returned home to Naval Base Ventura County at Point Mugu at the end of May, 2002, enjoying port calls in Australia during the transit home.
Upon returning home, VAW-112 completed training to transition to the Mission Computer Upgrade and Advanced Controller Indicator Set (MCU/ACIS) Navigation Upgrade version of the E-2C Plus. This new version of the Hawkeye featured new display scopes and interfaces for aircraft controllers and mission commanders, along with a new, more powerful mission computer. In addition, the aircraft’s navigation system is significantly more reliable.
After four short months at home, VAW-112 was called upon again to ready itself for the possibility of an early deployment in support of the Global War on Terrorism. In October of 2002, the Golden Hawks commenced an unannounced, compressed inter-deployment turnaround cycle and left for Fallon, Nevada to complete both Strike Fighter Advance Readiness Program (SFARP) and Air Wing Nine Fallon Det in a record span of three weeks. The Golden Hawks returned home for three weeks and readied themselves for COMPTUEX PLUS on board the USS CARL VINSON, CVN-70. Following the completion of this accelerated IDTC, in January 2003 the Golden Hawks deployed to the Western Pacific on board USS CARL VINSON, seven months ahead of schedule to serve as a deterrent force in the global war against terrorism. During the West Pac 2003 cruise the Golden Hawks visited Hawaii, Guam, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Perth, and Hong Kong. When CVW-9 returned home in November 2003, it had been deployed, embarked, or detached for twenty-one of the previous twenty-seven months making the air wing the most deployed Naval Aviation unit since the events of 11 September, 2001.
Following West Pac 2003, VAW-112 finally got some well-earned time at home. During this period, various exercises continued to keep the squadron’s skills sharpened. In January 2004, the Golden Hawks departed once more on the USS Carl Vinson for a three-week Tailored Ships Training Availability (TSTA) exercise. This was repeated again in June 2004 and served as the beginning of the next workup cycle in preparation for deploying in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM (OIF). Following TSTA the squadron again detached to Fallon, Nevada on two different occasions – first for three weeks to complete SFARP and again two months later for Air Wing Fallon for four weeks. The workup cycle also included a three-week return to the USS CARL VINSON for the carrier’s Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX) which brought the entire strike group together into one cohesive fighting unit in preparation for actual combat operations.
In January 2005, VAW-112 prepared for an “Around the World” deployment on board the USS CARL VINSON and after a three week Joint Task Force Exercise (JTFEX), promptly headed west in support of OIF. After port calls in Guam and Singapore, the USS CARL VINSON and CVW-9 arrived in the Arabian Gulf where VAW-112 immediately began flying missions over Iraq. The Golden Hawks served as an airborne battlefield communications relay for the troops and convoys in country. VAW-112 carried out over 480 sorties , accumulating nearly 1,500 hours with a 98 percent sortie completion rate.
The Golden Hawks returned from their “around the world” deployment in August 2005. With the end of their deployment, VAW-112 and CVW-9 transferred to the USS JOHN C. STENNIS as the USS CARL VINSON entered a complex overhaul cycle at Newport News, Virginia. In November 2005, the Golden Hawks became the first squadron on the West Coast to incorporate the NP2000 eight blade modification for its propellers. In April 2006 the Golden Hawks began work ups for their scheduled 2007 deployment. Beginning with the Hawkeye Advance Readiness Program (HARP), 112 honed their skills in the aircraft in preparation for that May’s SFARP, Strike Fighter Advance Readiness Program, at NAS Fallon. The Golden Hawks returned to sea that June onboard the USS JOHN C. STENNIS for Tailored Ships Training Availability (TSTA). Following CSG-3’s Joint Task Force Exercise (JTFEX), the Golden Hawks returned to Pt. Mugu for the holidays and prepared for their upcoming January deployment.
In January, 2007, VAW-112 again deployed in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM and Operation ENDURING FREEDOM. The Golden Hawks served as an airborne battlefield communications platform coordinating close air support and tanking missions. VAW-112 carried out over 950 sorties, accumulating over 1,800 hours with a 98 percent sortie completion rate. After five months in the Northern Arabian Sea and Arabian Gulf, the Golden Hawks returned to NAS Point Mugu, California to complete a seven month deployment. For their efforts and superior performance both in the air and on the ground, VAW-112 was awarded the Battle Efficiency Award or ‘Battle E’ from Commander, Naval Air Forces, U.S. Pacific Fleet.
Upon return from deployment, VAW-112 received four new Hawkeye 2000 aircraft. This platform incorporates new electronic and flight systems increasing the Golden Hawk’s ability to provide accurate and timely airborne command and control. This capability was displayed as VAW-112 performed well above standards during the first two phases of workups in 2008. During both Hawkeye Advanced Readiness Program and Strike Fighter Advanced Readiness Program, the Golden Hawks employed the newest tactics against capable adversaries with resounding success. This work up cycle led to a successful Westpac deployment from January to July of 2009. The squadron conducted ongoing maritime security operations in the Seventh Fleet AOR.
From July 2009 to August 2010, VAW-112 was in a squadron maintenance phase, after many years of demanding duty.
From September of 2010 through June of 2011, VAW-112 found themselves in another demanding work up cycle. The goal of this cycle is to ensure the battle readiness of navy units. This began with Hawkeye and Strike Fighter Advanced Readiness Programs (Harp and SFARP). In January 2011, VAW-112 returned to the high seas for TSTA, once again aboard the USS John C. Stennis. In February 2011, VAW-112 supported the Centennial of Naval Aviation flyover with two E-2C Hawkeyes. VAW-112 spent May and June of 2011 participating in Composite Training Unit Exercise and Joint Task Force Exercise to ensure that they, and all of Carrier Strike Group Three, could continually project power from the sea.
From July of 2011 to March of 2012, VAW-112 was again deployed in support of OPERARTIONS ENDURING FREEDOM and NEW DAWN. During this time, VAW-112 flew 1,671 hours and had a 99% combat sortie completion rate. It was a Golden Hawk E-2C, on an airborne battle field command and control flight, that flew the final US Navy combat sortie over Iraq.
When not under way, the Golden Hawks of VAW-112 are stationed at NBVC Point Mugu, California.
Immediately after returning from cruise, the Golden Hawks were informed that as part of the surge carrier, they would begin a condensed work-up cycle for an eight-month deployment, again in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM. After two weeks of Air Wing Fallon and two weeks of Sustainment Exercise (SUSTEX), VAW-112 set sail in September 2012. After supporting OEF and Operation SPARTAN SHIELD, the Golden Hawks finally returned in May 2013.
From May 2013 through present day, all VAW-112 aircraft have undergone a transition to the Communications, Navigation, Surveillance/Air Traffic Management (CNS/ATM) system, in addition to a weapons system software upgrade, which enhances the ability to carry out our mission. Maintenance and Aircrew have completed multiple training sorties, aircraft transfers and acceptances, and detachments to different parts of the country.
To learn even more about VAW-112 and their mission, please visit their website at: http://www.cacclw.navy.mil/vaw112/