2017 Shifts: Tigertails Head to the Far East; Liberty Bells to Return to CONUS

The World Famous Tigertails of VAW-125 are now in place in the Far East, part of Carrier Airwing FIVE embarked in USS RONALD REAGAN (CVN 76). Arriving onboard MCAS Iwakuni 2 Feb 2017, the Tigertails replace the VAW-115 Liberty Bells as the forwarded deployed, Japan-based VAW squadron.  The Tigertails most recently supported USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT (CVN 71) using the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye in combat for the first time as part of Operation Inherent Resolve.

VAW-125’s move to MCAS Iwakuni is part of the Navy’s phased relocation of Carrier Air Wing 5’s fixed-wing aircraft from NAF Atsugi to MCAS Iwakuni, scheduled to start in late 2017.  The plan is part of the Defense Policy Review Initiative (DPRI) and was recommended in late 2005 as part of a strategic rebalance of forces to the Pacific — the so-called “Pacific Pivot.”  The Navy’s strategic vision for the rebalance to the Asia-Pacific is a plan to put the most advanced and capable units forward in order to support the United States’ commitment to the defense of Japan and the security and stability of the region.  Most recently, the utility of the plan was demonstrated with the deployment of up to three carrier strike groups – headed by the VINSON, NIMITZ and REAGAN as part of the US response to North Korean provocations.

VAW-115 has patrolled the skies of the Pacific since April 1967, deployed onboard multiple forward-deployed U.S. Navy aircraft carriers, and participated in exercises such as Valiant Shield, Malabar, Talisman Saber ANNUALEX, and Keen Sword.  VAW-115 will return to CONUS later in 2017 and take residence onboard NAS Pt Mugu and transition to the E-2D at a later date.

(Image sources: USN and VAW-115)