|Active||April 20, 1967|
|Country||United States of America|
|Branch||United States Navy|
|Type||Airborne Early Warning|
|Role||Airborne Early Warning
Airborne Battle Management
Command and Control
|Part of||Carrier Air Wing 5|
|Garrison/HQ||Naval Air Station Atsugi|
Operation Desert Storm
Operation Enduring Freedom
Operation Iraqi Freedom
|Northrop Grumman E-2 Hawkeye 2000|
Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 115 (VAW-115), also known as the "Liberty Bells", is a United States Navy squadron based at Naval Air Facility Atsugi that flies the E-2C Hawkeye 2000. The "Liberty Bells" are the Navy's only forward deployed Airborne Early Warning squadron and is the oldest and only original squadron in Carrier Air Wing Five (CVW-5).
Since being established on 20 April 1967, VAW-115 has patrolled the skies of the Pacific Ocean and the Middle East. Originally flying the E-1B "Willie Fudd" with Attack Carrier Wing Two aboard the USS Ranger (CVA-61), the squadron has witnessed the evolution of carrier-based Airborne Early Warning (AEW) aircraft, transitioning to the E-2B in 1970, the E-2C in 1985, the E-2C Group II Navigation Upgrade in 1998, and most recently the eight-bladed NP2000 variant in January 2007. They joined CVW-5 in 1970 and made two combat deployments to the Gulf of Tonkin between May 1971 and April 1973 on board the USS Midway (CV-41). In September 1973, CVW-5 moved to Yokosuka, Japan as a component of the Forward Deployed Naval Forces, and the only air wing home ported outside the continental United States.
VAW-115 E-2B Hawkeyes played a significant command and control role in Operation Frequent Wind, supporting the evacuation of Saigon in 1975. From the late 1970s throughout the 1980s, VAW-115 made eleven deployments to the Indian Ocean and North Arabian Sea, a period which saw such tumultuous events as the Iranian seizure of the American Embassy in Tehran. In 1983, VAW-115 participated in rescue and salvage operations following the tragic shoot-down of Korean Airlines Flight 007. Two years later, the Liberty Bells supported Freedom of Navigation operations, both for the USS Oldendorf (DD-972) in the Sea of Japan and for Operation Earnest Will, protecting Kuwaiti re-flagged tankers through the Straits of Hormuz. During the 1989-90 deployments with the Midway Battle Group, the Liberty Bells and their E-2C Hawkeyes participated in Operation Classic Resolve, supporting the democratic government of the Philippines against a coup attempt. In response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, VAW-115 deployed to the Persian Gulf in October 1990 as part of Operation Desert Shield. In January 1991, Desert Shield transitioned to Desert Storm and saw VAW-115 flying 179 combat sorties. In August 1991, the USS Midway (CV-41) was decommissioned and CVW-5 embarked on the USS Independence (CV-62). During the ensuing years, the squadron deployed to the Persian Gulf four times in support of Operation Southern Watch, enforcing a No-Fly Zone over the skies of southern Iraq. In January 1998, VAW-115 and the Independence Battle Group were called upon to participate in various Persian Gulf contingency operations in support of United Nations sanctions. After transitioning to the E-2C Group II Navigation Upgrade aircraft, VAW-115 cross-decked with CVW-5 to the USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63) in the Summer of 1998. In February 2003, the Liberty Bells were once again called to the Persian Gulf to support Operation Southern Watch and flew 46 combat sorties until the commencement of Operation Iraqi Freedom in March 2003. During that operation, the Liberty Bells flew 363.8 hours in support of Army and Marine Corps units on the ground.
In the years that followed, VAW-115 continued to maintain a high level of readiness and promoted US strategic interests overseas by participating in exercises such as Valiant Shield, Malabar, and Talisman Saber as well as Exercises Annualex and Keen Sword with the Japanese Air and Maritime Self Defense Forces. Most recently, VAW-115 took part in joint and multi-national Exercise RIMPAC 2008, providing Airborne Battlespace Command and Control to 49 naval vessels, 150 aircraft, and 29 other foreign and U.S. units from 10 participating countries. Again, the Liberty Bells demonstrated a high degree of combat readiness and professionalism in this most challenging and dynamic environment.
VAW-115 has an amazing record with more than 23 years and 46,000 hours of Class-A mishap-free flight hours. In its distinguished history, VAW-115 also boasts eight Battle Efficiency "E" awards, seven AEW Excellence awards, and six Safety "S" awards. The sky is the limit for the Liberty Bells as they continue operations aboard America's first forward-deployed nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the USS George Washington (CVN-73). As always, VAW-115 will continue to be a potent part of "America's 911 Air Wing" in the highly demanding forward-deployed environment.
- VAW-115 Squadron History. Liberty Bells