|Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 126|
VAW-126 Seahawks Zapper Insignia
|Active||1 April 1969|
|Country||United States of America|
|Branch||United States Navy|
|Type||Carrier Airborne Early Warning|
|Part of||Carrier Air Wing 3|
|Engagements||Operation Desert Shield
Operation Desert Storm
Operation Enduring Freedom
Operation Iraqi Freedom
|Commander John Hewitt|
Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 126 (VAW-126), also known as the "Seahawks", is a carrier airborne early warning squadron operating the E-2C Hawkeye based at Naval Air Station Norfolk. Currently a part of Carrier Air Wing 3, the Seahawks deploy aboard the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75).
Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 126 (VAW-126), nicknamed the Seahawks, is an integral part of the tactical air forces of the United States Navy. VAW-126 is one of six Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadrons based in Norfolk. Equipped with four E-2C+ Group II Hawkeye aircraft, the squadron's primary mission is on-scene airborne command and control for the Joint Warfare Commander. VAW-126 implements command and control through diverse operations such as fighter intercept and air strike control, ocean surveillance, search and rescue coordination, airborne battle-space management, and dynamic strike control.
VAW-126 was commissioned in Norfolk, VA April 1, 1969. Equipped with four E-2A Hawkeye aircraft, the squadron was assigned to Attack Carrier Air Wing 17 assigned to the USS Forrestal (CV-59). Following completion of their first deployment in July 1970, the squadron transitioned to the E-2B. This was a newer version of the same aircraft, equipped with a more flexible, digital computer weapons system. The command received accolades early in its history, winning the highly coveted COMNAVAIRLANT Battle Readiness Efficiency "E" and the CNO Safety “S” Award in 1971. The squadron won the Battle "E" a second time in 1974.
While homeward bound in September 1974, the squadron transferred to USS America (CV-66). The NATO deployment marked VAW-126's final E-2B flying as well. Following their return to Norfolk in October 1974, the squadron began its transition to the E-2C, Group 0 variant, an aircraft similar in appearance to its predecessor, but with a significantly more capable and reliable weapons system.
In August 1975, the squadron commenced operations in the Caribbean with CVW-9, based at NAS Miramar, California. In May 1976, they began the first of many trips moving the entire squadron back and forth between Norfolk and Miramar, CA to operate with CVW-9 and prepare for their upcoming deployment aboard USS Constellation (CV-64). The squadron made their second and final Western Pacific deployment with USS Constellation (CV-64) in May 1978.
The Seahawks joined USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67) and CVW-1 upon returning to the East coast in 1979.
In July 1981, VAW-126 joined CVW-3, which replaced CVW-1 as the air wing deployed aboard USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67). The September 1983 to May 1984 deployment was a record breaking one for VAW-126. Many monthly and quarterly records were set. In addition to receiving the 1983 Battle "E," the squadron won the COMNAVAIRLANT "Silver Anchor" award for superior retention and the Airborne Early Warning Excellence Award as the best VAW squadron in the Navy. The Seahawks departed for the Mediterranean aboard USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67) a second time in August 1986.
Upon their return in March 1987, the Seahawks kept active by participating in a variety of exercises including a MISSILEX off Brunswick, Maine, and the VACAPES OPAREA, AEGIS support, and drug interdiction operations. By November 1987 the squadron was back aboard USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67) in preparation for their next deployment. 1988 proved to be another outstanding year for the Seahawks. The Seahawks once again were awarded the COMNAVAIRLANT Battle "E," Meritorious Unit Commendation, and won the CVW-3 and CAEWWING 12 nomination for the Secretary of Defense Maintenance Excellence Award. In June, the Carrier Strike Group assembled for FLEETEX 2-88 and the Seahawks departed with USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67) in August for its 4th deployment on board.
The Seahawks set sail for its final deployment attached to the USS John F. Kennedy Battle Group in August 1990 answering the call for Operation DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM. During Operation DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM, the Seahawks accumulated over 2850 flight hours. On June 8, the squadron led a mixture of CVW-3 aircraft in a victory fly-by in Washington D.C.
In late 1993, the CVW-3 team was reassigned to USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) and deployed to the Mediterranean with the USS EISENHOWER BATTLE GROUP in October 1994. The Seahawks were also awarded the 1994 Battle 'E' and the Airborne Early Warning Excellence award. In late 1995, the CVW-3 team was once again reassigned, this time to USS Theodore Roosevelt Battle Group.
In November 1996, the Seahawks deployed to the Mediterranean in support of Bosnian and Adriatic Operations. While in the Adriatic the v flew several missions over the beach and provided ABC2, AEW, and ES in support of NATO air operations. In November 1998, VAW-126 deployed aboard USS Enterprise (CVN-65) for JTG 99-1. In its first few months, the squadron participated in Persian Gulf operations including Operations DESERT FOX and SOUTHERN WATCH. VAW-126 also participated in Juniper Stallion, INVITEX, and in Kosovo operations. In all, the squadron and everyone aboard USS Enterprise (CVN-65) transited the Suez Canal four times during that deployment. The Carrier Battle Group wrapped up the deployment in the Persian Gulf and returned home 6 May 1999.
From July to September 1999, VAW-126 participated in Counter-Narcotics operations, based out of Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico. The Seahawks, in cooperation with Joint Interagency Task Force, monitored and detected illegal drug suspects in the Caribbean. After returning from Puerto Rico, VAW-126 also assisted in air control for the massive search and rescue effort to rescue Hurricane Floyd survivors in North Carolina.
VAW-126 deployed on board the Navy's newest aircraft carrier at the time, Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) from November 2000 to May 2001. Their time was spent in the Mediterranean and Arabian Seas flying over 850 flight hours in support of Operation SOUTHERN WATCH. The Seahawks maintenance professionals earned two Golden Wrench Awards while deployed. Following deployment, the Seahawks spent several weeks in Puerto Rico supporting counter-narcotic operations in the region.
The Seahawks deployed aboard Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) with CVW-3 in December 2002. Driving forward from a small corner of the Mediterranean, the Seahawks flew 100 sorties and over 445 hours in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. The Seahawks returned home to Norfolk in May 2003. In recognition of the year’s accomplishments, the Seahawks were awarded the 2003 COMNAVAIRLANT Battle “E” as well as the 2003 RADM Frank Akers Award for Superior AEW Excellence.
In October 2004, VAW-126 deployed aboard Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) to the Persian Gulf for a second deployment in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. During this highly intensive combat cruise, the Seahawks surpassed all previous records by flying 419 combat missions into Iraq, accumulating more than 2000 flight hours in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. In December 2004, the squadron sent two aircraft from the Persian Gulf to Afghanistan in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM for the inauguration of the first democratically elected president. This was the first time the SEAHAWKS supported two separate campaigns simultaneously. The Seahawks returned home in April 2005.
After the combat cruise in April 2005, the VAW-126 Seahawks were constantly on the go supporting the Fleet Response Plan. In September of that year, the Seahawks were called into service to perform rescue and relief operations in response to Hurricane Katrina. With over 150 aircraft operating over the devastated Gulf Coast at any given time, rescuing survivors and delivering much-needed supplies, command and control was essential. VAW-126 provided the air coordination, staging out of NAS PENSACOLA, FL, and flying more than 46 sorties over a period of 18 days.
Entering 2006, the Seahawks transitioned from the E-2C+ Group II aircraft to the E-2C Hawkeye 2000 (HE2K) platform, which brings improved systems and instrumentation to the command and control field. The new platform was soon tested in March when the Seahawks participated in a mini-SFARP (Strike Fighter Advanced Readiness Program) with VFA-106 and VFA-37 at NAS KEY WEST, FL. This exercise enabled the flight officers and pilots to familiarize themselves with the added capabilities of the HE2K in the air-to-air operational environment. In March, the Seahawks were informed that they were the recipients of both the CNAL Battle “E” Efficiency Award and the RADM Frank Akers “A” Award for AEW Excellence for CY 2005, effectively naming them as the finest Hawkeye squadron in naval aviation. Harry S. Truman (CVN-75). The Seahawks spent Thanksgiving in Italy along with the rest of the TRUMAN strike group before making the Suez Canal transit. December marked the beginning of flights in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. The next four months included sustained operations over Iraq in support of Army, Marine Corps, and coalition personnel on the ground. In April 2008, increased insurgent activity in Basrah, Iraq resulted in the Seahawks flying additional combat missions to provide time sensitive command and control to coalition forces securing the city and ultimately defeating the uprising. Additionally, with a CEC equipped CG or DDG patrolling the northern Persian Gulf and acting as a relay node, the Seahawks were able to provide back to the strike group commander on his flagship Truman in the central Persian Gulf a Single Integrated Air Picture (SIAP) extending as far north as Baghdad, Iraq. Combat operations ended for the squadron on April 29 as the strike group prepared for the long transit home. The Seahawks made final port visits to Rhodes, Greece and Marseilles, France. After departing Marseilles, the Seahawks hosted and the Truman welcomed French E-2C Hawkeyes for a day of carrier launch and recovery operations. The Seahawks returned home to a warm reception of family and friends when the Truman pulled back into Norfolk on June 4, 2008, concluding another successful combat deployment. The Seahawks are again scheduled to deploy in November 2009 to serve this country and this Navy and continue its long and successful history of providing effective command and control wherever and whenever called.
 See also