Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron 3 (United States Navy)

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Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron 3
Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron 3 (US Navy) insignia 2015.png
VQ-3 insignia
Active1 July 1968 - Present
CountryUnited States of America
BranchUnited States Navy Seal United States Navy
TypeFleet Air Reconnaissance
Garrison/HQTinker Air Force Base
Aircraft flown
ReconnaissanceLockheed EC-130G/Q Hercules
Boeing E-6 Mercury

Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron 3 (VQ-3), nicknamed the Ironmen, is a naval aviation squadron of the United States Navy based at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma (United States). The squadron flies the Boeing E-6B Mercury airborne command post and communications relay aircraft. It is part of the Navy's TACAMO community, whose mission is to enable the President of the United States and the Secretary of Defense to directly communicate with U.S. submarines, bombers, and missile silos during a nuclear war.[1]


VQ-3 has a complement of 78 officers and 454 enlisted personnel. Since 1992, it has operated under Navy Strategic Communications Wing 1 at Tinker Air Force Base. It forward deploys aircraft to fly operational patrols out of Travis Air Force Base, California.[2]


An EC-130Q of VR-21 off Hawaii, circa 1964.

The squadron started on 23 December 1963 as a detachment of Fleet Tactical Support Squadron 21 (VR-21) at Naval Air Station Barbers Point, Hawaii. It operated a specialized version of the Lockheed C-130 Hercules aircraft, the EC-130G. In early 1966 it moved to NAS Agana, Guam, becoming part of Airborne Early Warning Squadron 1 (VW-1). On 1 July 1968, the TACAMO detachment became Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron 3 (VQ-3).[3] The EC-130G was replaced by the EC-130Q in 1969-1970. VQ-3 returned to Barbers Point in 1980. The squadron transitioned from the EC-130Q to the Boeing E-6A Mercury in 1989-90, and relocated to Tinker Air Force Base in 1992.

The TACAMO Community Veterans Association organization has set up a museum/history kiosk at Kalaeloa Airport, on the site of the former NAS Barbers Point. It was dedicated September 6, 2016 with former members of VQ-3, VQ-4, and VQ-7 in attendance, chronicling the history of VQ-3.


  1. ^ Peloni, Matthew (2011-06-03). "Navy VQ-3 squadron welcomes new commander". Inside Tinker AFB. Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma: Tinker Air Force Base. Archived from the original on 2015-07-06. Retrieved 2015-07-05.
  2. ^ Polmar, Norman (2005). The Naval Institute Guide to the Ships and Aircraft of the U.S. Fleet. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. pp. 377–378. ISBN 9781591146858. Retrieved 2015-07-05.
  3. ^ "VQ-3 - The Ironman Squadron". Old TACAMO. Archived from the original on 2015-07-16. Retrieved 2015-07-05.