Electronic Attack Squadron ONE FOUR ONE (VAQ-141) was established in July 1987 at NAS Whidbey Island, WA as the twelfth operational EA-6B Prowler squadron. Assigned to Carrier Air Wing EIGHT (CVW-8), the “Shadowhawks” embarked on board USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) for her maiden cruise to the Mediterranean. Following that first cruise, VAQ-141 saw combat action on every subsequent deployment for the next 21 years.
The Shadowhawks deployed in early 1991 on board TR in support of Operation Desert Storm. Of note, VAQ-141 was the first CVW-8 squadron to deliver ordnance in that conflict, firing AGM-88 High Speed Anti-Radiation Missiles (HARM) on the first night. Following hostilities, the TR and CVW-8 sailed back into the eastern Mediterranean and provided airborne protection for humanitarian relief efforts in northern Iraq as part of Operation Provide Comfort.
In 1993, VAQ-141 deployed again on board TR, this time to the Adriatic Sea in support of Operation Provide Promise humanitarian relief efforts and Operation Deny Flight no-fly zone enforcement over Bosnia-Herzegovina. Following numerous Deny Flight missions, the TR/CVW-8 team steamed into the Red Sea to support Operation Southern Watch, ensuring Iraqi compliance with post-Gulf War United Nations resolutions.
The squadron deployed once more with the Roosevelt Battle Group in March 1995, supporting Operation Southern Watch missions from the Red Sea and Arabian Gulf. In June, the Shadowhawks flew ashore to Aviano Air Base, Italy to support Operation Deny Flight over Bosnia. During this period, VAQ-141 flew defense suppression cover for the successful Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) effort for downed Air Force pilot Captain Scott O’Grady. Operation Deliberate Force began in late August and the Shadowhawks again provided effective Suppression Of Enemy Air Defense (SEAD) coverage for NATO airstrikes throughout Bosnia. After an eventful summer abroad, the Shadowhawks returned home in September.
In 1996 the Shadowhawks and CVW-8 embarked on board USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67) and made the first aircraft carrier visit to Dublin, Ireland. In April 1997 the Shadowhawks deployed on the Kennedy to the Mediterranean/Adriatic Seas and Arabian Gulf, supporting Operations Deliberate Guard and Southern Watch, respectively.
In 1999, the Shadowhawks and CVW-8 reunited with the Roosevelt, deploying in March to execute major combat operations over Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo as part of Operation Allied Force. During that intense 70-day conflict, the squadron distinguished themselves by not losing a single Coalition aircraft to enemy air defenses while a Shadowhawk jet was on station. Following Allied Force, the TR Battle Group steamed through the Suez Canal and began combat operations in support of Operation Southern Watch the following month, finally returning home in September 1999.
The squadron embarked on board the USS Enterprise (CVN 65) for a deployment to the Arabian Gulf in early 2001 to support no-fly zone enforcement as part of Operation Southern Watch. They were well on their way home when the events of September 11, 2001 unfolded. The Enterprise Battle Group immediately reversed course for the Indian Ocean and joined other American units for the opening days of Operation Enduring Freedom over Afghanistan. Once again, the Shadowhawks flew some of the critical first missions of a major conflict.
In February 2003 the Shadowhawks, returned to the Roosevelt, deploying on short-notice to execute the first strikes of Operation Iraqi Freedom I (OIF). During OIF, the Shadowhawks supported Navy, Army and Air Force units, flying over 400 combat hours and launching 21 HARMs in anger. The Shadowhawks logged a 100% mission success rate during that conflict, a testament to both their maintainers and aircrew.
Due to an urgent operational requirement from Central Command, the TR Battle Group was ordered to accelerate their deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in early 2005. With Coalition units in Iraq under relentless insurgent attack, VAQ-141 flew half of the squadron ashore to Al Asad Airbase, Iraq, in order to significantly increase the availability of critical round-the-clock Airborne Electronic Attack protection. The squadron spearheaded the implementation of simultaneous split-side combat operations from both austere sites ashore and the carrier; a template that every carrier-based EA-6B squadron would use for years to follow.
Returning from a deployment in which they flew 2400 hours in direct support of Army, USMC and Coalition units engaged in close combat with the enemy, the Shadowhawks maintained a heightened level of readiness by successfully completing detachments to Boise, ID, Dallas-Ft. Worth, TX, Pt. Mugu, CA, and Anchorage, AK. In April 2007, the Shadowhawks participated in the first Red Flag Alaska, a multi-national air/ground combat exercise out of Elmendorf AFB, AK in which aircrew gained extensive tactical experience and received real-time feedback. Later that same year, the Shadowhawks deployed to MCAS Iwakuni, Japan in support of Pacific Command. While in Iwakuni, VAQ-141 engaged in numerous training events with USMC F/A-18s and USAF F-15s and F-16s.
Returning to Carrier Air Wing EIGHT, the Shadowhawks deployed in September 2008 on board USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), flying the EA-6B Prowler into combat for the last time. They returned to the skies over Afghanistan supporting Coalition ground forces as part of Operation Enduring Freedom during the course of an almost eight month deployment. Returning home in April 2009, the Shadowhawks immediately began their transition to the EA-18G Growler.
From June 2009 to February 2010, Shadowhawk aircrew and maintainers learned how to fly and fix the most sophisticated and capable Airborne Electronic Attack platform ever built, the EA-18G Growler. On February 5, 2010, the Shadowhawks became only the second operational squadron to be certified Safe For Flight for the EA-18G.
In May 2011, VAQ-141 embarked on the historic first carrier-based deployment of the remarkable EA-18G on board USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77). In June, the Shadowhawks flew the first carrier-based EA-18G combat mission over the skies of Iraq, followed a month later by the first EA-18G combat mission into Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Over the course of a seventh month deployment, VAQ-141 operated Growlers “from the sea” in the SECOND, SIXTH, and FIFTH Fleet Areas of Responsibility, ultimately executing 237 combat missions in support of US and Coalition forces on the ground, earning Commander, Naval Air Forces, Atlantic Fleet Battle “E” honors for 2011.
Immediately following the first carrier deployment of the EA-18G, VAQ-141 was privileged to introduce the Navy’s most capable Electronic Warfare platform into the SEVENTH Fleet Area of Responsibility in the Western Pacific. In early 2012, the Shadowhawks relocated to Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan to join the US Navy’s permanently Forward Deployed Naval Forces as part of Carrier Air Wing FIVE (CVW-5), deploying on board USS George Washington (CVN 73) for the second carrier deployment of the EA-18G.