The last of the U.S. Navy’s E-2C Hawkeyes forward-deployed to Japan departed Naval Air Facility (NAF) Atsugi on June 1, marking the end of 44 years of service in Japan.
The aircraft from Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 115 “Liberty Bells” are one of the Navy’s longest-serving forward deployed squadrons in the U.S. Navy.
Having accumulated more than 24 consecutive years and 50,000 hours of mishap-free hours, the Liberty Bells of VAW-115 are returning to the United States after turning over operational responsibilities to VAW-125 and the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye.
The transition of VAW-115 and VAW-125 is part of the Navy’s strategic vision to place its most advanced aircraft to the Asia-Pacific region. VAW-115 and its 140 personnel will continue to support Navy carrier strike group operations while based at Naval Base Ventura, California.
“VAW-115’s Sailors, aircrew, and our families are all extremely grateful for the hospitality that we received from the people of Japan during our time at Atsugi, and for our outstanding partnership with the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force,” said VAW-115’s executive officer Cmdr. Christopher Hulitt.
The VAW-115 “Liberty Bells” first arrived in Japan in 1973. Since then, the Liberty Bells have played an integral role during numerous international events.
From the late 1970s throughout the 1980s, VAW-115 made 11 deployments to the Indian Ocean and North Arabian Sea. VAW-115 deployed to the Persian Gulf in October 1990 as part of Operation Desert Shield and transitioned to Desert Storm, flying 179 combat sorties. VAW-115 returned to the Persian Gulf again in 2003 and flew over 350 hours in support of initial major combat operations with operation Iraqi Freedom.