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Electronic Attack Squadron 135
VAQ-135 (Logo).jpg
VAQ-135 insignia
Active May 15, 1969 - present
Country  United States of America
Branch United States Navy Seal United States Navy
Role Airborne Electronic Attack
Part of Carrier Air Wing Eleven (CVW-11)
Garrison/HQ Naval Air Station Whidbey Island
Nickname Black Ravens
Engagements Operation El Dorado Canyon
Operation Southern Watch
Operation Desert Fox
Operation Enduring Freedom
Operation Iraqi Freedom
* 2003 invasion of Iraq
Aircraft flown
Attack EA-3B Skywarrior
EA-6B Prowler
EA-18G Growler

Electronic Attack Squadron 135 (VAQ-135) is a United States Navy electronic attack squadron. Known as the Black Ravens, the squadron operates the EA-18G Growler carrier-based electronic warfare jet aircraft. The squadron is permanently stationed at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, in Oak Harbor, Washington on Puget Sound and deploys as an "Expeditionary" (land-based) unit. The squadron radio callsign is "Thunder".


Provide fully operational EA-18G aircraft to perform unrestricted Electronic Attack as needed throughout the world.


Early years[edit]

Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron One Three Five was established on May 15, 1969 to provide electronic warfare and aerial refueling support to carrier air wings. Homeported at Naval Air Station Alameda, California, the Black Ravens first flew the Douglas EKA-3B Skywarrior and deployed to both the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets.

Douglas EKA-3B Skywarrior of VAQ-135 Detachment 2 serving aboard USS Forrestal CVA-59 visiting Hellenikon Air Base, Athens, Greece, in April 1973

In 1973, VAQ-135 relocated to Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Washington and transitioned to their present aircraft, the Grumman EA-6B Prowler.

The squadron first deployed with the EA-6B to the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean from January to September 1976 with Carrier Air Wing 2 (CVW-2) aboard USS Ranger (CV-61). Following that deployment, VAQ-135 transitioned to the Improved Capability Prowler (ICAP) and became the first fleet EA-6B ICAP squadron. The squadron deployed with Carrier Air Wing 8 (CVW-8) aboard USS Nimitz (CVN-68) from November 1977 to July 1978 to the Mediterranean Sea.

In January 1979, VAQ-135 commenced refresher training with Carrier Air Wing 15 (CVW-15) aboard USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63) and deployed to the Western Pacific in May 1979. During deployment, they received the Navy Expeditionary Medal for operations in the Indian Ocean during the Iranian hostage crisis, the Meritorious Unit Commendation, and their first Chief of Naval Operations Safety “S” Award. They again deployed with CVW-15 aboard USS Kitty Hawk from April to November 1981. VAQ-135 participated in several major exercises throughout the Pacific and Indian Oceans and received a second Navy Expeditionary Medal and the Humanitarian Service Medal for their participation in the rescue of Vietnamese refugees.


In May 1982, the VAQ-135 were assigned to the USS America (CV-66) and Carrier Air Wing 1 (CVW-1). After completing work-ups, the Black Ravens received word to transfer to USS Nimitz (CVN-68) and deploy to the Mediterranean Sea in November 1982 later receiving their second Chief of Naval Operations Safety “S” Award.

In 1984, the Black Ravens deployed with USS America and CVW-1 from April until November 1984, receiving their third Chief of Naval Operations Safety “S” Award. In 1985, along with CVW-1 they participated in Ocean Safari ‘85, the largest NATO Naval Exercise to date, and received their second Meritorious Unit Commendation.

On the morning of January 1, 1986, VAQ-135 was “no-notice” deployed to support Sixth Fleet Battle Group operations in the Mediterranean Sea. Within 48 hours, they had sortied from NAS Whidbey Island, joined their new air wing Carrier Air Wing 13 (CVW-13) at sea on board USS Coral Sea (CV-43) and supported contingency operations underway in the central Mediterranean Sea. For the next five months, with no in theater AIMD or supply support, the squadron provided valuable electronic warfare support to U.S. naval forces operating off the coast of Libya. The squadron took part in the successful strike action in the Gulf of Sidra in March 1986 and provided key close-support jamming services in the successful strikes on the Benina/Benghazi airfields in April of that year. As a result, the squadron was awarded two Navy Unit Commendations, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, the Navy Expeditionary Medal and the Association of Old Crows Outstanding Unit Award for 1986.

In November 1986, the Black Ravens were reassigned to Carrier Air Wing 11 (CVW-11) aboard USS Enterprise (CVN-65). In 1987, VAQ-135 completed work-ups with CVW-11 and became the first Prowler squadron to complete the Medium Attack Advanced Readiness Program (MAARP) and the revised EA-6B Defensive Air Combat Maneuvering (DACM) syllabus.

In January 1988, VAQ-135 became the first EA-6B squadron to deploy with five Prowlers. WESTPAC ‘88 marked the return of the squadron to the Seventh Fleet with USS Enterprise, providing electronic warfare support to U.S. Naval forces operating in the North Arabian Sea. The squadron received the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal.

In April 1988, VAQ-135 participated with CVW-11 and Battle Group Foxtrot in Operation Praying Mantis, the successful action against Iranian naval surface units. The command received the Joint Meritorious Unit Award, Meritorious Unit Commendation and Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal. In the fall of 1988, the squadron transitioned to the ICAP-II version of the Prowler, acquiring the ability to fire the AGM-88 High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM).

In September 1989, VAQ-135 deployed aboard Enterprise for an around the world cruise, taking part in PACEX ‘89, the largest naval exercise since World War II. In January 1990, the squadron participated in Operation Earnest Will in defense of the Philippine government, resulting in the command receiving the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal.


In September 1990, the Black Ravens deployed aboard USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72). Their two-month maiden voyage took them from Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia, around Cape Horn to the Lincoln's new homeport of Naval Air Station Alameda, California. In May 1991, they deployed to the Western Pacific aboard the Lincoln and participated in Operation Fiery Vigil, the evacuation of Air Force and Navy personnel from Subic Bay, Philippines. While on station in the Persian Gulf, the squadron took part in peacetime Operation Desert Storm, Exercise Beacon Flash with Oman and annual exercise operations with the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Forces. In February 1992, the squadron received the 1991 AIRPAC Safety “S” award in recognition of the squadron’s outstanding safety record of over 12 years and 21,000 hours mishap free.

In the fall of 1992, the RAVENS started another work-up cycle for their second deployment on the Lincoln and participated in the squadron’s first HARM shot over the desert skies of Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake.

On June 15, 1993 they deployed to the Western Pacific participating in Operation Southern Watch, enforcing the southern no-fly zone in Iraq where they shot two HARM missiles to protect air wing aircraft from enemy surface to air missiles and received their second Southwest Asia Service Medal. In addition, the squadron participated in Operation Restore Hope, while USS Lincoln was stationed off the coast of Somalia, receiving the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal. In November 1993, the squadron celebrated another safety milestone, fourteen years mishap free, just prior to returning home to NAS Whidbey Island.

In April 1995, VAQ-135 deployed to the Western pacific on board the Lincoln participating in Exercise Inspired Alert with the Pakistan Air Force, Exercise Nautical Artist, an exercise with Saudi Air and Naval Forces and Operation Southern Watch, receiving their third Southwest Asia Service Medal.

The Ravens returned from deployment and started an aggressive 12 month turnaround aboard the USS Kitty Hawk participating in RIMPAC 96’. The squadron deployed in October 1996 and again participated in Operation Southern Watch receiving their fourth Southwest Asia Service Medal. After returning from deployment in April 1997, the squadron participated in several exercises including Exercise Red Flag.

In February 1998 the squadron was redesignated Electronic Attack Squadron 135, and the aircraft’s side numbers were changed to 500 series. During the summer of 1998 the squadron deployed aboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) and participated in RIMPAC ’98.

The squadron deployed to the Western Pacific in November 1998, participating in Operation Southern Watch and Operation Desert Fox, a four-day campaign consisting of several air strikes. The squadron fired two HARM’s supporting air wing strike aircraft. The squadron returned from deployment in May 1999.

In September 1999, the Black Ravens participated in exercises Red Flag and Spirit hawk in preparation for their deployment to Incirlik, Turkey in August 2000.


From May through July 2000, the Black Ravens successfully flew missions in support of Operation NORTHERN WATCH on station at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey while supporting in a Joint Expeditionary role for Commander Electronic Attack Wing U.S. Pacific Fleet. In March 2001, the squadron deployed to the Western Pacific in support of Operation Southern Watch. Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, the CARL VINSON" and CVW-11 took station off of the coast of Pakistan and conducted air strikes in support of coalition air and ground forces in Afghanistan during Operation ENDURING FREEDOM. The squadron returned home in January 2002 and received the Chief of Naval Operations Safety “S” Award, Battle Efficiency Award and the Old Crows Award as the most tactically proficient Prowler squadron.

In March 2003, they deployed aboard the Nimitz and participated in the initial air strikes of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Following an extended eight-month deployment, supporting two separate contingency operations, the squadron returned home in November 2003.

In July 2004, the Ravens participated in Joint Expeditionary Force Experiment (JEFX) at Nellis Air Force Base, Las Vegas, Nevada, the first of five 2004 detachments in preparation for the 2005 WESTPAC deployment. The squadron completed 2004 with a two-month detachment aboard the Nimitz for TSTA/Computex and received the CVW-11 Golden Wrench for maintenance excellence. In 2005, they continued their high-tempo operations in preparation for their WESTPAC deployment with detachments to Naval Air Station Fallon, Nevada, Naval Air Station Lemoore, California, Naval Air Station North Island, California and several exercises aboard Nimitz.

On May 7, 2005, the Black Ravens deployed aboard Nimitz as part of Carrier Strike Group 11. During the 2005 deployment, VAQ-135 conducted operations in the Western Pacific and Persian Gulf, again participating in Operation Iraqi Freedom from the Persian Gulf and Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, providing critical support to Multi-national Ground Forces in Iraq. The squadron received the CVW-11 / CVN-68 Teamwork Award twice during the deployment, initially for the first line period and again at the end of deployment. Additionally, VAQ-135 received the CVW-11 Golden Wrench Award for deployment, as the finest Maintenance Department in CVW-11.

The Black Ravens departed April 2007, for a six-month WESTPAC deployment to include supporting both Operations ENDURING FREEDOM and IRAQI FREEDOM. They returned in early October 2007.

The Black Ravens returned from a subsequent Pacific deployment in June 2008 after a four-and-a-half-month deployment aboard NIMITZ.

The Black Ravens departed July 2009, for an eight-month WESTPAC deployment, aboard USS Nimitz, in support of Operations ENDURING FREEDOM and IRAQI FREEDOM. The returned in March 2010.

On 1 November 2010, VAQ-135 commenced transition from the EA-6B Prowler to the EA-18G Growler, achieving "safe for flight" designation in the new aircraft on 17 June 2011.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "VAQ-135 completes Growler transition". The Northwest Navigator. Retrieved 2011-08-07.