Naval Air Station Whidbey Island

An up close view of the EA-18G Growler office. Looks quite cosy in there.

Turn ‘n’ Burn‘s Alan Kenny visited NAS Whidbey Island (NASWI) in May and September.

The naval base is located near Oak Harbor, Whidbey Island in the beautiful Pacific North West of Washington State in the United States of America. Evergreens, beach and clear waters surround the complex. It is a stunning location and the tall green trees do a good job of masking the sound, although you never can fully mute a large amount of Growlers, P-3s and MH-60s.

Two former residents of NAS Whidbey Island, the A-6E Intruder and EA-6B Prowler, now stand guard of the entry to the base.

NAS Whidbey Island is under the command of Commander, Electronic Attach Wing, US Pacific Fleet (COMVAQWINGPAC) and is home to all but one of the Electronic Attack (VAQ) Squadrons, which there are 13. All of the VAQ squadrons now fly the EA-18G Growler. The Growler is the electronic attack version of the F/A-18F, on which the airframe is based. The final EA-6B Prowler was retired from US Navy service in 2015.

The Squadrons are:

  • VAQ-129 ‘Vikings’
  • VAQ-130 ‘Zappers’
  • VAQ-131 ‘Lancers’
  • VAQ-132 ‘Scorpions’
  • VAQ-133 ‘Wizards’
  • VAQ-134 ‘Garudas’
  • VAQ-135 ‘Black Ravens’
  • VAQ-136 ‘Gauntlets’
  • VAQ-137 ‘Rooks’
  • VAQ-138 ‘Yellow Jackets’
  • VAQ-139 ‘Cougars’
  • VAQ-140 ‘Patriots’
  • VAQ-141 ‘Shadowhawks’
  • VAQ-142 ‘Gray Wolves’
  • VAQ-209 ‘Starwarriors’ (Reserves)

VAQ-129 ‘Vikings’ are the Fleet Replacement Squadron and are responsible for training of EA-18G pilots and electronic attack warfare officers. VAQ-141 ‘Shadowhawks’ is permanently forward based at Naval Air Facility Atsugi in Japan.

VAQ-209 Starwarriors CAG bird ‘166895’ is beautifully decorated with Darth Vader on the tail.
Three VAQ-129 ‘Viking’ EA-18G Growlers approach runway 14 from the north west.
VAQ-129 Vikings NJ513 166898
VAQ-129 Vikings NJ533 169129
VAQ-133 Wizards NG501 168263. She looks very sea worn, just how I like it!
VAQ-133 Wizards NG504 168380
VAQ-137 Rooks AB502 169269 & AB504 169274. This was a nice surprise.
VAQ-209 Starwarriors AF502 166897
VAQ-142 NH500 168381 & NH501 168382
VAQ-142 Gray Wolves NH500 168381. Unfortunately this CAG bird fly right over our heads.
VAQ-142 Gray Wolves NH501 168382
VAQ-129 Vikings NJ512 168937
VAQ-129 Vikings NJ524 166898
VAQ-139 Cougars NA500 168256. Not the most exciting CAG bird out there.
VAQ-132 Scorpions NL542 166943
VAQ-129 Vikings NJ577 168770. This jet has the Royal Australian Air Force 6 squadron markings on the tail.
VAQ-135 Black Ravens NL524 166944
VAQ-136 Ironclaw NE503 168273
VAQ-129 Vikings NJ562 168896
VAQ-129 Vikings NJ551 168901. Beautifully marked CAG.
VAQ-135 Black Ravens NL524 166944
VAQ-130 Zappers AC504 168255
VAQ-129 Vikings NJ567 168939
VAQ-129 Vikings NJ512 168937
VAQ-136 Ironclaw NE503 168273
VAQ-139 Cougars NA502 168258
VAQ-136 Ironclaw NE501 168272

NAS Whidbey Island is also home to four Maritime Patrol (VP) squadrons and a Fleet Air Reconnaissance (VQ) squadron. Commander, Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing 10 (CPRW-10) moved to Whidbey from Moffett Field, CA in 1994 when that base was closed.

Maritime Patrol Squadrons (VP)

  • VP-1 Screaming Eagles
  • VP-40 Fighting Marlins
  • VP-46 Grey Knights
  • VP-69 Totems

Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadrons (VQ)

  • VQ-1 World Watchers
VP-46 162998. Although listed on military databases as from VP-46. The Flash/Shazam logo on the tail isn’t a known marking for 46. Anyone shed any light?
VP-46 161414
VP-69 Totems 161405
VP-46 Grey Knights 162314
VQ-1 World Watchers 158935
VP-46 Grey Knights 161766
VP-69 Totems 161590
VP-46 Grey Knights 161766
VQ-1 World Watchers 166917
VP-46 Grey Knights 161587
VQ-1 World Watchers 156529. EP-3E ARIES II. These conduct airborne electronic warfare, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions worldwide on a continuous basis in response to operational tasking by Theater Commanders.
VQ-1 World Watchers 156529

Two C-40A Clippers belonging to Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 61 (VR-61) ‘Islanders’ call the base home too. The squadron used to operate the C-9B Skytrain, but these have all been retired now and replaced with the C-40A.

VR-61 Islanders 166695

Naval Outlying Landing Field (NOLF) Coupeville is also under the command of Whidbey Island and the COMVAQWINGPAC. It is located 17 miles due south of the main base of NASWI. There is just a single runway with a control tower, two Landing Signals Officer (LSO) shacks at either end and a fire station. Nothing else. It is mainly used for Field Carrier Landing Practice (FCLP) for the EA-18Gs. Because of the noise created from doing this, the public is made aware of the incoming noise in advance by being notified on local websites. The two Search and Rescue (SAR) MH-60S Seahawks, based at NASWI, also use NOLF Coupeville for training purposes.

MH-60S Seahawk with the impressive Mt Baker behind.
MH60S FW 165758
MH60S FW 165758. Love the white and red SAR scheme.
MH60S FW 165758

A locally based, McChord C-17 was doing practice approaches at Whidbey Island on the day I attended, which was nice to see. The aircraft belongs to the 62nd Airlift Wing and 446th Airlift Wing.

McChord C-17 62nd AW 446th AW 08-8203
Low and slow and too big for my 400mm lens!

Thanks to my friend Mark Munzel for driving and to Mark and Rod McDonough for their company.


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