Carrier Air Wing ONE History 2013 marks the 75th anniversary for the “First and Foremost” Team of Carrier Air Wing ONE. On July 1st, 1938 the compliment of squadrons attached to the USS Ranger (CV-4) after her 1934 commissioning were officially designated the Ranger Air Group. VF-4, VB-4, VS-41, and VS-42 would initiate Carrier Air Wing One’s lineage while conducting carrier suitability trials from San Diego to Monterey, CA. The Ranger was the Navy’s first vessel designed and constructed as an aircraft carrier and paved the way for the creation of Air Groups. 2013 also marks 50 years since Carrier Air Group ONE (CVG-1) was officially designated Carrier Air Wing ONE (CVW-1) on December 20th, 1963. The early days of carrier aviation saw several name changes in a time when air groups were named after the ship they were attached to. World War II Operating in the Atlantic when the US entered WWII, the USS Ranger participated in the North African campaigns called OPERATION TORCH and OPERATION LEADER. OPERATION TORCH was at that time the most ambitious naval operation yet conducted in the European-African Theater. The major responsibility was anti-sub patrol and escort duty in the North Atlantic. VF-9 and VF-41 launched towards French Morocco where they found themselves dog fighting French Pilots, some of which were Aces against the Luftwaffe from the Battle of France. The Ranger fighters accounted for 16 French fighters, strafed enemy ships and airfields, and gave air coverage to landing operations. Attacks on shore batteries and French ships continued in support of Allied Forces and showed the German-dominated French military leaders the striking power of the carrier task force operating off French Morocco. The Ranger Air Group discontinued involvement in OPERATION TORCH on 12 November 1942 and returned to home base at Norfolk, Virginia.
"When hostilities commenced on 8 November 1942, the Ranger Air Group numbered 72 operable planes (1 CRAG, 17 VS-41, 26 VF-9, and 28 FV-41). By the end of TORCH, Captain Durgin reported 16 of these 72 were ‘lost or damaged beyond economical repair. During the battle, 43 had been hit by either enemy anti-aircraft or fighter gunfire.”2 Ranger Air Group was designated CVG-4 on Aug.3, 1943 in line with CV-4 and ordered to Pacific Fleet duty. On 4 Oct 1943, OPERATION LEADER initiated a carrier based attack on the Nazi-held Norwegian Coast with Ranger operating as part of the British Home Fleet. The Attack was a complete surprise to the Germans that endangered submarines and supply ships, causing fear for repeated surprise attacks by the Allied Forces. This also marked the end of Ranger’s combat career as she became a training carrier for the remainder of the war.
A sailor points at a submarine periscope spotted after two torpedoes were launched at the USS Ranger during OPERATION TORCH.1
CVW-1 on USS America Air Group FOUR (VB-4, VT-4, and VF-4) left the Ranger and deactivated from operational status on the East Coast in the spring of 1944. Now designated as CVG-4, they departed on the USS Barnes (CVE-20) for transport to Hawaii. In October of 1944 they transited aboard the USS Long Island (CVE-1) to Saipan where they would transfer to the USS Bunker Hill (CV-17) and replace CVG-8. The Air Group participated in the Allied invasions of several Philippine islands, Iwo Jima and Okinawa, and became a part of the carrier-based attacks on Tokyo in November 1944 with VF-4, VB-4, and VT-4. Air Group FOUR remained in theater and transferred to the USS Essex (CV-9) on November 21, 1944. They were tasked to continue supporting Task Force 38 and were soon after credited with sinking a 4-Ship Japanese convoy. The group survived a Kamikaze attack on November 25, 1944, engaged in a number of strikes against the Japanese, and the "Halsey Typhoon."
VMF-124 and VMF-213 would replace the Top Hatters of VB-4 in December of 1944, marking the first Marine squadrons to augment carrier air groups during WWII. CVG-4 saw action against Japan from the Philippines to Okinawa and Tokyo, earning two Presidential Unit Citations in addition to having nurtured many Naval Aviation heroes. They disembarked CV-9 completing their last WWII cruise in March and transferred to the USS Long Island (CVE-1) for transit to Pearl Harbor. In the end Air Group FOUR was credited with 13 possible and 83 airborne kills, destroying or damaging 297 aircraft on the ground, and the sinking of 2 Japanese destroyers, 2 destroyer escorts, 13 merchant ships, with damage to countless others.
Upon their return home, CVG-4 transferred to the USS Tarawa (CV-40) at NAS Atlantic City and transferred to her new homeport at NAS San Diego in 1946. CVG-4 and CV-40 departed for a 9 month Westpac cruise in August of 1946. While deployed the CNO directed new post-war organization requirements and CVG-4 was designated Attack Carrier Air Group ONE (CVAG-1).
CVAG-1 went through a two year period of training operations followed by another Westpac aboard USS Tarawa throughout most of 1946-1947. They departed San Diego in September of 1948 for a World Cruise taking them to China, The Republic of Ceylon, Bahrain and the first carrier to land in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. After transiting the Suez Canal, they stopped in Athens, Istanbul, Crete, Gibraltar and arrival to their new home port of Cecil Field in February 1949.
With the 1950’s approached the transition to the jet age for Air Group One. After conducting carrier qualifications on USS Midway (CVB-41) the air wing participated in Caribbean exercises aboard the USS Philippine Sea (CV-47) with VF-11, VF-12, and VF-13 flying Bearcats, VA-14 flying Corsairs, and VA-15 with Skyraiders. Upon their return, VF-11 received their first F2H-1 Banshee and ushered CVG-1 into the jet age. VF-11 and VF-12 would transition to the F2H-2’s and the air wing would depart on a Med Cruise aboard the USS Coral Sea (CVB-43). From 1946 to 1957, Air Wing ONE served aboard nine different carriers. They would cruise the Med on the USS Wasp, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and World Cruise on the USS Midway in 1955.
Around the World Cruise Patch
CVG-1 joined the first “Super Carrier” USS Forrestal in 1956 for an emergency deployment to the 6th Fleet to support the evacuation of US Nationals in response to the Suez crisis, and returned to theMed the following year. They would return to the Roosevelt from 1959 to 1961 for multiple cruises back to the Med.
On the morning of January 17, 1962, CAG Talley recorded the first ever arrested landing aboard a nuclear powered aircraft carrier, the USS Enterprise (CVN-65) in an F8U-1 as part of the Shakedown cruise in the Atlantic. The air wing would return to the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CVA-42) for multiple Med Cruises throughout the 1960’s including combat operations off the coast of Vietnam between June 1966 and February 1967. In 1968 CVW-1 would begin a new partnership with the USS John F. Kennedy (CVA-67) that would last throughout the early 1980’s.
“Air Group One conceived in war nurtured with the smoke and flying steel of the battle, has an insignia embodying the squadrons who helped to rule the skies of Norway to Korea; when the first bomb ripped the earth of Hickam Field until the USS MISSOURI dropped her anchor in Tokyo bay.
The rampant lion, baring a row of slashing fangs, is symbolic of the torpedo squadron (VA-2A) being the main element of their insignia.
A jaunty hat perched on the name was borrowed from the bombers (VA-1A Top Hatters). In one arm, held tightly in a clenched fist, the smoldering bomb of the fighter bombers (VF-2A), and upon the other, the bar sinistered bickler of the fighting squadron (VF-1A Red Rippers). The king of the beasts prances on a red background of courage, set within the outlines of a protective shield.”3 Vietnam Era Between June 1966 and February 1967 CVW-1 sailed their only Vietnam War cruise aboard the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CVA-42) to conduct combat operations in the Tonkin Gulf. Tarbox consisted of VF-14 and VF32’s F-4 Phantoms; VA-12, VA-72 and VA-172’s A-4 Skyhawks, VAH-10 A-3B andVQ-1 EA-3B Skywarriors, VAW-12 E-1 Tracers, VFP-62 RF-8G Crusaders, and HC-2 UH-2A Seasprites. They began combat operations without a warm-up period from Yankee Station on August 10th ending their first line period on September 12th. VA-72 led the first successful strike against a surface-to-air SA-2 missile installation in North Vietnam. Numerous other strikes destroyed North Vietnamese targets, but not without consequence. During the first line period, a total of four aircraft were lost with all but one crewmember recovered who was KIA. After a port visit in Yokosuka, Japan and dry dock repairs at NAS Atsugi, Tarbox began the second line period from October 11th to November 1st. VA-172 and VA-72 each lost an aircraft whose pilots were captured and held as POW’s. VA-12 lost two A-4’s to a midair collision and killing both pilots, including CO, CDR Robert C. Frosio. After a Subic Bay port visit, they returned for a third line period from November 24th to December 27th. VA-172 lost two A-4’s to SAM’s in the Red River delta area. Bother pilots were KIA including CO, CDR Bruce A. Nystrom. Two weeks later a VA-72 A-4 was shot down with pilot KIA during a 42-plane Alpha strike in North Vietnam. That same day an E-1B from VAW-12 ditched in the South China Sea, killing three of the five crew members.
VA-72’s 511 launches from the FDR during Vietnam Following one last Med cruise aboard the Roosevelt, CVW-1 moved on to the USS John F. Kennedy (CVA-67) for its shakedown cruise with CAG Marr recording her first trap on October 22, 1968. Throughout the 1970’s until 1981 CVW-1 made multiple cruises aboard CVA-67 to the Med, Norlant, and Westlant. Tarbox introduced the Navy’s newest tactical aircraft, the F-14A Tomcat with VF-14 and VF-32 to the Mediterranean in 1975. The air wing saw several other changed with the addition of the S-3A Viking with VS-22, EA-6B Prowler with VAQ-133, and E-2C with VAW-125.
1980’s and Libya CVW-1 joined the USS America(CV-66) in mid-1982, forming a partnership that ended with her decommissioning in August 1996. The 1982-83 Med and Indian Ocean cruise that saw a record setting 102 consecutive day underway period while on GONZO station in the Indian Ocean. Both the ship and air wing were awarded the Navy Expeditionary Medal for operations in support of American peacekeeping efforts in Lebanon. The Tarbox/America team returned to Norfolk after safely amassing over 20,000 hours and 8,700 sorties. In April of 1984 the strike group headed to the unrest in the Persian Gulf area at one point recording 102 continuous days underway. They participated in DISPLAY DETERMINATION interacting with Italian, French, Turkish, Belgian, and USAF units while operating in the Med.
CVW-1 on the “Big E” The Tarbox/USS America team conducted combat operations from the Gulf of Sidra during the 1986 attack on Libya along with the USS Coral Sea. Air wing aircraft were virtually unchallenged by Libyan Fighters south of Khadafy’s "Line of Death." In March 1986 air wing F-14's were fired on by Libyan SAM's and AAA while flying CAP's for OPERATION PRARIE FIRE. “First and Foremost” conducted joint strikes on terrorist staging sites in Tripoli and Benghazi with USAF F-111’s. VA-34’s A-6E Intruders attacked and damaged a Libyan FACM Class La Combattante II fast attack missile craft with a AGM-84 Harpoon missiles (the first combat employment Harpoon). On the night of 14 April 1986, the Blue Blasters conducted a low-level, high-speed attack against the Benina airfield and military barracks in Benghazi. VA-46 also provided air-to-surface Shrike and Harm missile strikes against Libyian radar missile sites while VAMQ-2 EA-6B’s provided electronic jamming. Gulf War and the 1990’s The Tarbox/USS America team was the only carrier battle group to launch strikes in support of Operations DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM from both the Red Sea and Persian Gulf. Within 48 hours of their arrival Tarbox aircraft began combat operations over Iraq logging more than 1,300 sorties. VF-102 logged more than 1400 combat flight hours alone. VS-32 became the first S-3 Squadron to engage and destroy a hostile vessel, an Iraqi gunboat hit by three 500-lbs bombs and vectored to the target by the USS Valley Forge (CG-50).
Tarbox began a third Med deployment in three years in August of 1993 aboard the America. The Air Wing conducted humanitarian operations off the coast of Bosnia-Herzegovina supporting OPERATION’s PROVIDE PROMISE and DENY FLIGHT. In late October they supported RESTOR HOPE off the coast of Mogadishu, Somalia and by Mid-December shifted to OPERATION SOUTHERN WATCH in Iraq. The 1995–96 Med cruise commenced with an emergency sortie to the Adriatic Sea for OPERATION DELIBERATE FORCE followed by a return to the Gulf in support of SOUTHERN WATCH. Placement of U.S. ground forces in Bosnia, led to a 4,000 mile transit in just 9 days to the Adriatic in December where the strike group remained until returning home. Tarbox amassed over 26,000 flight hours and 11,500 arrested landings on America’s final cruise and CVW-1 moved to the USS George Washington (CVN-73) strike group.
Tarbox and GW launched into an intense work-up cycle in 1997 that included the multinational BRIGHT STAR Exercise. This involved integration with Egyptian Air and Special Operations Forces that included 3,200 fixed and rotary wing sorties from seven different nations. On her third deployment from October 1997 to April 1998, the GW remained in the Persian Gulf enforcing a No Fly Zone along with the Nimitz as part of SOUTHERN WATCH. The two carriers provided 50 strike aircraft apiece with their new LANTIRN system working with RAF Harrier GR7's from the HMS Invincible.
1997 Cruise on USS George Washington
Following the terrorist attacks of September 11th, CVW-1 embarked on the USS Theodore Roosevelt on September 19th. On the night of 4 October 2001, Tarbox launched the initial strikes of OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM from the North Arabian Sea against Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. By the end of 2001, CVW-1 flew 7,086 sorties and dropped 800 tons of ordnance. The TR spent 159 consecutive days at sea, breaking the record for the longest period underway since WWII. She returned to her homeport 27 March 2002, and was awarded the Navy Unit Commendation, 2001 Battenberg Cup, and 2001 Battle E.
CVW-1 deployed on the USS Enterprise (CVN-65) for continued support of OEF and OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM in 2003. During these combined operations, CVW-1 Aircrewlogged more than 11,000 sorties resulting in nearly 20,000 flight hours with a sortie completion rate of 99 percent.
Cruise November 2006 The following 2006 deployment delivered 65,000 pounds of ordnance, including 137 precision weapons in support of OEF and OIF. Air wing aircraft completed more than 8,300 sorties, of which 2,186 were combat missions, flying more than 22,500 hours and logging 6,916 arrested landings. Tarbox also completed split-deployment operations by sending air wing EA-6B Prowlers and F/A-18 Hornet aircraft to Al Asad Air Base, Iraq providing shore-based combat support to coalition forces in Iraq and sea-based combat support to coalition forces in Afghanistan. CVW-1 provided the first combat air support to OPERATION’s ENDURING FREEDOM, MEDUSA and MOUNTAIN FURY. Carrier Strike Group Twelve also conducted a two-month deployment with the U.S. Seventh Fleet in the Western Pacific including training exercises with Carrier Strike Group Five. This was the first time that an East Coast-based carrier air wing had operated in the western Pacific in 18 years. Air Power Demo October 2012 During the 2007 Med deployment, CVW-1 aircraft flew more than 7,500 missions, 1,676 which were combat, and logged more than 20,300 hours and 6,500 arrested landings. They dropped 73 air-to-ground weapons and fired 4,149 rounds of 20-mm ammunition in support of ground forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Also during this deployment, the air wing sent squadron detachments to operate directly out of Al Asad Air Base while simultaneously operating from the ship. CVW-1 was also the second air wing to deploy with the new ASQ-228 Advanced Targeting Forward Looking Infrared (ATFLIR) targeting system in air wing F/A-18’s. Another historic first was accomplished with the recovery and launch of French Rafale F2 Fighter, witnessed by the French CNO and US Ambassador to France. Finally, the 2007 deployment marked the final cruise for squadron VS-32 and its S-3 Viking aircraft. During an extended maintenance and training period for the “Big E,” air wing squadrons amassed more than 20,000 mishap-free tactical flight hours which included four carrier flight deck certifications aboard the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69), USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77), USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70), and USS Harry Truman (CVN-65). The “Big E” and Tarbox returned to theater in 2011 with CVW-1 aircraft flying more than 1,450 sorties in support of OEF and OPERATION NEW DAWN in Iraq. A quick turnaround following the 2011 deployment presented a compressed Fleet Response Training Plan to include Air Wing Fallon, COMPTUEX, JTFEX and BOLD ALIGATOR 12. Departing from Norfolk on March 11, 2012 the USS Enterprise commenced its 25th and final deployment and Tarbox quickly returned to an established battle rhythm. The air wing provided successful CAS, EW, and ABCC support to ground troops with 2,241 OEF combat sorties between May and September. As a whole, Tarbox flew more than 9,400 sorties with over 8,700 traps, participated in the EAGER LION multinational exercise hosted by Jordan, the IRON AGATE joint exercise with the UAE and USAF and Dissimilar Aircraft Training (DACT) with the Italian Navy and Air Force. VFA-211 2012 Homecoming With the Big E’s arrival in Norfolk on November 4th, the air wing begins some well deserved rest before launching a new partnership with the USS Theodore Roosevelt(CVN-71) currently in its mid-life Refueling and Complex Overhaul at Newport News Shipbuilding Yard. The upcoming year will be especially significant for Carrier Air Wing ONE and Team Tarbox when it marks its 75th anniversary as Naval Aviation’s “First and Foremost” air wing born in 1938 as the Ranger Air Group.