|Carrier Airborne Command and Control Squadron One One Seven|
|Active||July 1, 1974 - present|
|Country||United States of America|
|Branch||United States Navy|
|Type||Airborne early warning|
|Part of||Carrier Air Wing 11|
|Garrison/HQ||NAS Point Mugu|
|Engagements||Operation Praying Mantis
Operation Restore Hope
Operation Southern Watch
Operation Desert Fox
Operation Enduring Freedom
Operation Iraqi Freedom
|CDR William Reed|
|Grumman E-2 Hawkeye|
Carrier Airborne Command and Control Squadron One One Seven (or VAW-117) is a United States Navy (USN) airborne early warning (AEW) squadron. Nicknamed The Wallbangers (formerly the Nighthawks), it flies the Grumman E-2 Hawkeye, the USN’s only carrier-based command and control platform. The squadron is based out of Naval Air Station Point Mugu, California and deploys as part of Carrier Air Wing 11 (CVW-11) on board the USS Nimitz (CVN-68).
The Hawkeyes of VAW-117 provide radar coverage for every facet of battle group defense. Though a Hawkeye can operate independently, it normally functions as an extension of existing air defense systems. All data obtained on board the airplane can be relayed to surface command posts for display and decision-making. The E-2C Hawkeye, particularly with the new improvements in the Hawkeye 2000, has allowed the squadron to give air defense commanders the most complete, up-to-the-minute picture of theater operations possible.
The squadron was established at NAS North Island, California on 1 July 1974, as part of Fighter Early Warning Wing, U.S. Pacific Fleet. The squadron received its first E-2B aircraft in October 1974 and in October the following year deployed to the Mediterranean Sea on board the USS Independence (CV-62). The squadron made its first Western Pacific (WESTPAC) deployment with Carrier Air Wing Two on board the USS Ranger (CV-61) in February 1979.
During its 1988 WESTPAC deployment on board the USS Enterprise (CVN-65), VAW-117 played a key role in Operation Praying Mantis during which an Iranian ship was destroyed. In addition, the squadron provided command and control during attacks on oil platforms and small ships.
Years later, the squadron was still maintaining its rapid operational pace. The onset of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm led to the most accelerated turn around training cycle ever. On board the USS Abraham Lincoln’s maiden WESTPAC voyage in May 1991, VAW-117 assisted in the evacuation of dependents from the Philippines after the eruption of Mount Pinatubo during Operation Fiery Vigil. VAW-117 was awarded the Joint Meritorious Unit Award for its efforts in assisting in the evacuation. In 1999, VAW-117 was selected to provide operational testing for the Navy’s newest AEW upgrade, the MCU/ACIS (Mission Computer Upgrade/ Advance Computer Information System). This new computer system in the E-2 has given the squadron a distinct advantage in its command and control capabilities.
In July 2001, VAW-117 was the first squadron to deploy with the new MCU/ACIS system. WESTPAC 2001-02 on board the USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) proved to be an active deployment. After the September 11 attacks in 2001, aircraft from VAW-117 and CVW-11 were among the first aircraft to lead the strikes on Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. The squadron flew an unprecedented number of combat sorties in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
The extensive radar and communication equipment on board the E-2C Hawkeye allowed the squadron to become a vital part of the anti-terrorist operations. It continuously provided battle space management over Pakistan and southern Afghanistan, ensuring the safety of all airborne assets and clearance from commercial air routes. The squadron's Hawkeyes served as an information-clearing house, providing a communications relay between command authorities on the ground and tactical aircraft airborne.
VAW-117 was the first fleet squadron to receive the HE-2K variant of the Hawkeye. In addition, it was also the first fleet Hawkeye squadron to receive the Cooperative Engagement Capability system (CEC).
In May 2005, VAW—117 deployed on USS Nimitz (CVN-68) with CVW-11 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. This was VAW-117's first deployment with the HE2K variant. During the deployment, VAW-117 flew into Karachi, Pakistan, and Goa, India, to display the E-2C to partner nations. The Nimitz while on deployment visited Hong Kong; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Guam; Manama, Bahrain; Dubai, UAE; Perth, Australia; and Pearl Harbor, HI, twice.
In April 2007 VAW-117 deployed on WESTPAC 2007. The squadron flew 101 sorties and 227 hours in direct support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. It also took part in several exercises including Valiant Shield and Malabar.
In January 2008 the squadron deployed on a four-month surge to the Western Pacific, where it took part in Exercise Foal Eagle 08. During the course of the cruise VAW-117 demonstrated its aviation skills, earning the CVW-11 Top Hook Award for the first time in nearly eight years.