Open Access Articles- Top Results for VAW-121


Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 121
File:Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 121 (US Navy) patch.png
VAW-121 Insignia
Active 1 April 1967
Country 23x15px United States of America
Branch United States Navy Seal United States Navy
Type Airborne Early Warning
Part of Carrier Air Wing 11
Garrison/HQ NAS Norfolk
Nickname "Bluetails"
Motto BlueTails take care of Bluetails!
Mascot Griffin
Engagements Operation Desert Shield
Operation Desert Storm
Operation Enduring Freedom
Operation Iraqi Freedom
Commander Ryan J. Bryla
Aircraft flown
E-2D Hawkeye

Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 121 (VAW-121), also known as the "Bluetails", is an Airborne Early Warning (AEW) and Command and Control (CC) squadron operating the E-2D Hawkeye based at Naval Air Station Norfolk. Currently a part of Carrier Air Wing 11, the Bluetails deploy aboard the USS Nimitz (CVN-68).


Although officially known as the "Griffins," VAW-121 is more commonly known as the "Bluetails" as shown in their distinctive markings. VAW-121 is assigned to Carrier Air Wing 7 (CVW-7) which it has been since it began flying the E-2C Hawkeye in 1977.

Like VAW-122, VAW-123 and VAW-120, VAW-121 was created out of the "super squadron" VAW-12 on 1 April 1967. Until then, VAW-12 had deployed 4-plane detachments to accompany carrier air wings. Unlike its siblings, VAW-121 would fly the E-1B Tracer, deploying dets until the mid-1970s. This was due to the fact there were still carriers in the inventory that were not configured (USS Franklin D. Roosevelt) or capable (the Essex-class carriers) to handle the much larger E-2.

In 1977 VAW-121 made its first deployment as part of CVW-7 on the newly commissioned USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, but it wasn't until the next deployment in 1980 that they really began to set records. That year saw VAW-121 deployed for 347 days at sea with IKE/CVW-7 setting a modern day record that would not be broken until the deployment of the USS Theodore Roosevelt during Operation Enduring Freedom. After returning from this extended deployment, the Bluetails were sent to Iceland to relieve the Reserve E-2B squadrons who had picked up the North Atlantic AEW watch when the E-3 AWACS were re-deployed to Saudi Arabia. Returning from a three-month winter deployment to Iceland, the Bluetails found themselves again in the North Atlantic conducting three CVBG operations with USS Forrestal and HMS Hermes, the later deploying with the new Sea Harrier. During the course of this three-year period, 1979-1981 VAW-121 set unprecedented levels of performance by winning the COMNAVAIRLANT Battle "E" for Excellence and AEW Excellence awards for three straight years and the Chief of Naval Operations Safety "S" for two straight years.

In the years since the Bluetails have been in the forefront of AEW/Battle Management from operations over Iraq to Bosnia. Along the way they have amassed an enviable flight safety record of over 40 years and 72,000 hours of accident free flight ops—the best of any East Coast squadron and second best in all of US Naval Aviation, an especially noteworthy achievement given their high risk operating environment.


Dossel, Carl W. "History of VAW" The Hook, Summer 1983 National Museum of Naval Aviation, Flight Log [1]

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