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VP-4 Skinny Dragons
VP-4 flies P-3 aircraft on ASW patrols
Active November 1, 1947 – Present
Country 23x15px United States of America
Branch United States Navy Seal United States Navy
Type Squadron
Role Anti-Submarine Patrol
Part of Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing 2
Garrison/HQ Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Oahu, Hawaii
Nickname The Skinny Dragons
Engagements Cold War
Vietnam War
Operation Desert Shield
Operation Desert Storm
Operation Enduring Freedom
Operation Iraqi Freedom
Aircraft flown
Patrol PB2Y Coronado
P-2 Neptune (1947–1963)
P-3 Orion (1963–present)

Patrol Squadron Four (VP-4) is a U.S. Navy land-based patrol squadron based at the Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Oahu, Hawaii, which is tasked to undertake maritime patrol, anti-submarine warfare (ASW), and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions flying the Lockheed P-3 Orion.


Patrol Squadron FOUR has a long and distinguished history dating back to before World War II. The first squadron designated Patrol Squadron FOUR (VP-4) was established in 1928 and was based in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Re-designated Patrol Squadron TWO TWO (VP-22) in 1938, the squadron was nearly destroyed during the Japanese attack on 7 December 1941. Following the attack, the squadron was reformed, refitted, and called to duty in World War II. While in the defense of the Philippines the squadron lost all but one aircraft leading to the disestablishment of the squadron. This paved the way for the second Patrol Squadron FOUR to be formed.[1]

In July 1943, a new bombing squadron, Bombing Squadron ONE FOUR FOUR (VB-144) was established at NAS Alameda, California with the PV-1 Ventura and continued to conduct combat and reconnaissance operations throughout the Pacific Theater. VB-144 was redesignated Patrol Bombing Squadron 144 (VPB-144) in October 1944. Following the war, VPB-144 was placed in an inactive status and existed only administratively at NAS North Island, California. On 15 May 1946 VPB-144 was redesignated Patrol Squadron (VP-144). Shortly thereafter, on 15 November 1946, VP-144 was redesignated Medium Patrol Squadron (Landplane) FOUR (VP-ML-4). In 1947, VP-ML-4 was reactivated at NAS Miramar, California. After taking receipt of the United States Navy’s newest patrol and reconnaissance aircraft, the P2V Neptune, VP-ML-4 moved to NAS Whidbey Island, Washington in January 1948. In September 1948, the squadron was redesignated Patrol Squadron FOUR (VP-4). These events mark the birth of the squadron as we know it today.[1]

In 1956, VP-4 was relocated to Naha Air Base, Okinawa, Japan. From this base, the squadron flew reconnaissance and Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) missions to counter the Communist Chinese threat to the islands of Matsu and Quemoy. Starting a long-standing tradition of excellence, in 1964, the squadron marked its fourth year of unequaled operational excellence with three Commander, Naval Air Forces Pacific (COMNAVAIRPAC) Navy Battle “E” Awards, three Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Safety Awards, and four Arnold J. Isbell ASW Awards. In April 1964, VP-4 returned to their original home of NAS Barbers Point, Hawaii. From there, the squadron made numerous deployments to Southeast Asia in support of military action in Vietnam. It was on one of these deployments in 1965 when the squadron logo was changed from the Okinawa-era "Neptune" design to a Hawaiian-inspired "Black Griffin." The logo caused some confusion on the part of waitresses in the local Officer's Club, who remarked that it more closely resembled a "Skinny Dragon" and the new nickname was quickly adopted.[1]

In 1966, the Skinny Dragons began transitioning from the SP-2H Neptune to the P-3A Orion. Following completion of the transition, PATRON FOUR again made history by becoming the first Hawaii-based squadron to deploy P-3As to NAS Adak, Alaska in 1969. In 1972, VP-4 was awarded the Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation for its efforts during Operations MARKET TIME and YANKEE STATION. During the 1975 deployment to NAS Cubi Point, VP-4 participated in the evacuation of South Vietnam and the "Mayaguez" recovery operations, and in 1976 saw detachment operations to Naval Air Station Agana, Guam during which the squadron participated in Australia’s Kangaroo II fleet exercise.[1]

In July 1978, the "Skinny Dragons" assumed the Guam Detachment and simultaneously conducted operations that stretched around the world including locations as distant as: NAS Cubi Point, Republic of the Philippines; NAS Barbers Point, Hawaii; NAS Moffett Field, California; NAS Brunswick, Maine and NAS Sigonella, Italy. Patrol Squadron FOUR finished transitioning to the P-3B (MOD), or "SUPER BEE" in May 1979. The squadron then started a work up period for its next NAS Cubi Point deployment, which began in November 1979. While assigned to COMNAVAIRPAC, VP-4 was awarded the Navy Battle “E” Award for operational excellence for the cycle from 1 January 1979 to 30 June 1980. During the height of the Cold War, VP-4 fought on the front lines. Making numerous deployments to NAS Cubi Point, Philippines; Diego Garcia, British Indian Ocean Territory; Kadena Air Base and Misawa Air Base, Japan; NAS Adak, Alaska and countless other remote detachment sites, the squadron located, tracked and collected vital intelligence on Soviet ballistic missile and attack submarines. This era in VP-4’s history is marked by a number of “firsts” including becoming the first squadron at NAS Barbers Point, Hawaii to transition to the P-3C, the first NAS Barbers Point squadron to deploy to Diego Garcia (May 1980), and the first Hawaii squadron to deploy with P-3Cs to NAS Adak, Alaska (1981). VP-4’s operational excellence and contributions to the Cold War were recognized in 1987 in once again earning the Navy Battle “E” Award. Additionally, during this time, the squadron’s concern for the safety and welfare of its Sailors was marked by surpassing 100,000 hours of mishap free flying and earning back-to-back Golden Anchor Retention Excellence awards in 1987 and 1988.[1]

In 1988 VP-4 returned to Hawaii where they participated in numerous exercises, including RIM OF THE PACIFIC (RIMPAC) Exercise. In 1989 the "Skinny Dragons" completed a highly successful deployment to NAS Adak, conducting numerous Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) operations and participating in PACIFIC EXERCISE-89, the largest Naval exercise since World War II. Deploying to Diego Garcia in November 1990, the "Skinny Dragons" quickly established a detachment in Masirah, Oman to enforce the United Nations Embargo against Iraq during Operation DESERT SHIELD. By early January 1991, 179 missions had challenged 3,669 merchant vessels. The embargo gave way to Battle Force Protection as war was declared on 17 January 1991. Flying 279 combat missions and 2,779 flight hours in the Persian Gulf in support of Operations DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM, VP-4 provided detection and targeting, resulting in the total destruction of the Iraqi Navy.[1]

Upon returning home to Hawaii, VP-4 learned that it had again received the Chief of Naval Operations Golden Anchor and the Commander, Patrol Wings Pacific (COMPATWINGSPAC) Golden Orion for retention excellence. In November 1993, VP-4 deployed to Misawa AB, Japan, and established a permanent detachment at Kadena AB, Okinawa. While on deployment, VP-4 received the 1993 Chief of Naval Operations Aviation Safety Award for a Pacific Fleet Maritime Patrol Squadron, the Commander, US 7th Fleet Award and the Captain Arnold Jay Isbell Trophy, both for Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) excellence.[1]

After completing a challenging at home training cycle, VP-4 conducted a split-site deployment to Misawa AB and Kadena AB in 1995. During this deployment the squadron flew around the clock for seventeen straight days during the People’s Republic of China-Taiwan Crisis, providing intelligence support and protection against anti-surface and subsurface threats to both the NIMITZ and INDEPENDENCE carrier battle groups. In early 1997, VP-4 completed a quad-site deployment to Diego Garcia; Masirah, Oman; Manama, Bahrain, and Kadena AB, Japan. While on deployment, Skinny Dragon aircrew and maintenance personnel conducted the first permanent detachment in the Persian Gulf. In addition, VP-4 acted as the armed patrol aircraft detachment from Doha, Qatar, flying 21 straight days with weapons and exercised the first 24-hour armed ready alert Maritime Patrol Aviation (MPA) posture in the Persian Gulf. In addition, VP-4 acted as the fleet's “eyes in the sky” in support of Maritime Interdiction Operations (MIO), enforcing United Nations Security Council Resolutions (UNSCRs) and the Iraqi Oil for Food program. In 1998, pursuant to the BRAC decision to close NAS Barbers Point, Hawaii, VP-4 executed a homeport change to the other side of Oahu, relocating to MCAS Kaneohe Bay, now known as Marine Corps Base Hawaii. In December 1998, VP-4 again deployed to six sites around the Middle East. During their deployment, the "Skinny Dragons" participated in three combat operations: Operation Desert Fox, where they were awarded the Navy Unit Commendation; Operation Southern Watch, where VP-4 triggered the initial strike and delivered pre and post-strike imagery; and Operations Allied Force/Noble Anvil in Kosovo, which resulted in VP-4's Combat Air Crew 10 being awarded eleven (11) Air Medals. In home waters that same year, VP-4 also hosted 35 countries during RIMPAC 98.[1]

Patrol Squadron FOUR was the first VP squadron to introduce the P-3C Anti-Surface Warfare Improvement Program (P-3C AIP) aircraft to the Fleet. VP-4 proved AIP’s power during deployment by supporting three aircraft carrier battle groups in the Persian Gulf and becoming the first squadron to achieve reliable AIP imagery transfer. VP-4 was also the first squadron in the US 7th Fleet to fire the AGM-65 Maverick air-to-surface missile from a P-3C AIP aircraft. In November 1999, VP-4 flew to NAS North Island, California to participate in Joint Fleet Exercise (JTFEX/FLEETEX). While at JTFEX/FLEETEX, the Skinny Dragons participated in 23 events, including AIP and AGM-84 Standoff Land Attack Missile (SLAM) demo flights.[1]

In June 2000, VP-4 conducted a WESTPAC deployment with detachments in 13 countries and participating in 27 multi-national exercises. The squadron also saved 22 lives in various Search and Rescue (SAR) operations within US 7th Fleet’s Area of Responsibility (AOR). The squadron was again honored with the Navy Battle “E” Award in 2000, the third such award in five years. Following the attacks of 11 September 2001, VP-4 deployed to the US Central Command (USCENTCOM) AOR under Commander, Task Force 57 (CTF 57), a subordinate element of US Naval Forces Central Command (USNAVCENT)/US 5th Fleet. VP-4 conducted overland operations above Afghanistan flying armed reconnaissance missions and over the waters of the Middle East conducting Leadership Interdiction Operations in the first days of Operation Enduring Freedom. Over Afghanistan, VP-4 aircraft provided commanders a bird's eye view of the terrain where US special operations forces (SOF) were operating to dislodge Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters from their mountainous hideouts. VP-4 also played a pivotal role in Operation ANACONDA, the largest land battle in Afghanistan to that date. Over water, aircrews were instrumental in operations to intercept and cut-off fleeing Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters. For their efforts, VP-4 was once again recognized with the 2002 Commander, Naval Air Force Pacific Battle “E” Award as the top P-3 squadron in the Pacific Fleet.[1]

During their 2003 deployment, VP-4 continued to support Operation Enduring Freedom against terrorist factions in the Philippines, providing critical real time intelligence. These missions highlighted the expanse of Coalition operations against Al-Qaeda and Al-Qaeda backed terrorists. VP-4 also had the opportunity to conduct the P-3C’s primary mission, Antisubmarine Warfare, against diesel and nuclear powered submarines, completing this deployment by flying over 4,000 mishap-free flight hours and completing over 800 missions. In 2005, VP-4 successfully completed a wartime deployment to the Middle East and Western Pacific, carrying out a wide variety of missions ranging from humanitarian assistance and disaster relief support missions to the Indian Ocean tsunami victims, to direct support of ground combat operations in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. In December 2006, the squadron deployed to Misawa AB and Kadena AB, and to the Philippines, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in the Philippines. This was followed by a return to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in November 2008. On this deployment, VP-4 supplied detachments in support of numerous joint and multinational exercises at RAF Lakenheath, United Kingdom; RAF Kinloss, Scotland; and NAS Sigonella, Sicily. This experience proved invaluable during the ensuing interdeployment readiness cycle, when the "Skinny Dragons" successfully planned, hosted, and executed the world's largest joint, multinational military exercise, RIMPAC 2010. Following completion of a series of detachment operations, VP-4 departed MCB Kaneohe Bay for a split site deployment in November 2010, supporting assets in both the US 5th Fleet and US 7th Fleet AORs. Following the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami of 11 March 2011, VP-4 forward-deployed to Misawa AB in fewer than 24 hours and re-established CTG 72.4 as an operational entity and the first US aviation unit on station for Operation Tomodachi, with VP-4 subsequently providing 254 flight hours of humanitarian and disaster relief support to the Japanese people.[1]

In November 2012, VP-4 was deployed to the US 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean, operating from NAS Sigonella, Italy; NS Rota, Spain and numerous other locations in support of US Naval Forces Europe, US Naval Forces Africa, NATO and Unified Combatant Commanders. As of 2013, the squadron has surpassed over 40 years of mishap-free flying, with over 254,000 flight hours.[1]


Desert Shield/Desert Storm. On November 10 1990, as a normal rotation, NAS Barbers Point based VP-4 (with P-3C Update I’s) relieved VP-1 at NSF Diego Garcia and Al Masirah. VP-4 C.O. Commander Bob Cunningham, took over CTG 72.8 and his X.O. Commander Carlos Badger, assumed the detachment(det). at Al Masirah.

During one 34 hour period, P-3s provided the detection and target locating information that resulted in a substantial reduction in the Iraqi Navy's offense of capability. A group of 15 Iraqi vessels heading for Maridim Island, an outpost in Kuwaiti hands was detected by VP-4s Crew Five, who vectored strike aircraft against the force, resulting in five ships sunk and seven more damaged. This effort ended what would be Iraqis last seaborne assault.

Hours later, VP-4s Crew 2 detected a group of Iraqi vessels attempting a rapid transit from Iraqi ports around Bubiyan Island, apparently trying to reach the safety of Iranian territorial waters. P-3s from VPs 4, 19, and 45 provided the target locations for the strike aircraft which destroyed 11 Iraqi vessels in what has been named the Battle of Bubiyan. [2]

Between 25–27 March 2006, a series of anti-submarine warfare exercises were held in Hawaiian waters that included Carrier Strike Group Nine, the nuclear-powered attack submarines Seawolf, Cheyenne, Greeneville, Tucson, and Pasadena, as well as land-based P-3 Orion aircraft from patrol squadrons VP-9, and VP-47, and VP-4.[3][4]

See also

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  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l
  2. ^ "Orions of Arabia". 
  3. ^ Photographer’s Mate Airman Tim Roache and Journalist 2nd Class Michael Cook (March 17, 2006). "Lincoln Carrier Strike Group Conducts Undersea Warfare Training". NNS060317-06. USS Abraham Lincoln Public Affairs. Retrieved 2010-12-24. 
  4. ^ "Carrier Strike Group 9 Enters 7th Fleet AOR". NNS060320-11. USS Abraham Lincoln Public Affairs. March 20, 2006. Retrieved 2010-12-24. 

External links