For over seven decades, the command now recognized as Patrol Squadron FIVE (VP-5) has served the cause of freedom. From ocean to ocean, the Sailors and aviators who comprised this squadron’s rolls helped build a record of Maritime Patrol Aviation (MPA) warfighting excellence and extraordinary professional achievement and service.
Commissioned in 1937 and initially designated as VP-17, the Navy's second oldest VP squadron flew and maintained the PM-1. In part because the squadron operated predominately out of Alaska and other Pacific Northwest sites, the first squadron patch depicted a seal balancing a bomb on its nose. In 1938, VP-17 transitioned to the new PBY-2 and continued to operate primarily in northern patrol zones. VP-17 changed designation to VP-42 in 1939 and two years later transitioned to the newer PBY-5. In 1942, the squadron again accepted a new aircraft, the amphibious-capable PBY-5A.
During World War II, the squadron directly contributed to some of the earliest Allied victories in the Pacific theater. In February 1943, the Navy redesignated VP-42 as Bombing Squadron ONE THIRTY FIVE (VB-135) at Whidbey Island, Washington. Nicknamed the "Blind Fox" squadron reflecting the squadron's method of flying “blind” through heavy weather, the squadron altered the patch to depict a fox riding a flying gas tank. In this classic patch, the blindfolded fox carried a bomb underneath one arm and with the opposite hand held a cane to assist in navigating through the clouds. This steely airmanship underpinned the squadron’s service in the "Kiska Blitz", wherein Blind Foxes joined sister squadrons in persistent bombing of Kiska Harbor in advance of an anticipated August 1943 amphibious assault of Kiska Island in the Aleutians. Undeterred by enemy fire and extreme weather, squadron aviators typically approached the target area shrouded in clouds, executed a diving descent to release ordnance below the cloud deck, then raced back above the layer to escape ground fire. Operating from the Aleutian Island Amchitka, VB-135 flew 160 missions against the enemy, helping to hasten the Japanese abandonment of the island and obviate the need for a costly amphibious assault. In 1944, the squadron shifted to Attu Island to support photo-reconnaissance efforts aimed at unveiling Japanese activity in the Kurile Islands.
Following the war’s end, the squadron again received a new Lockheed aircraft, the PV-2 Harpoon. Peacetime brought significant force structure changes and in 1945, the Navy Department moved the squadron to Edenton, North Carolina, and then to Quonset Point, Rhode Island. Redesignated as VP-135 and then to Medium Patrol Squadron FIVE (VP-ML-5), the Blind Foxes relocated again in January 1947 to Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico, under operational control of Commander, Fleet Air Wing ELEVEN.
In 1948, the squadron took inventory of its first Lockheed P2V Neptune, an aircraft equipped with Magnetic Anomaly Detection (MAD) equipment capable of detecting large magnetic objects underwater. The technology to detect submerged submarines through non-acoustic means facilitated a major capability leap in Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) and manifested itself not only in squadron operations but also in the evolution of the squadron name and patch. Designated as VP-5 in December 1948, the squadron became known as the “Mad Foxes” and changed the patch to depict a fox casually preparing to strike a submarine with a sledgehammer.
The Mad Foxes moved to Jacksonville, Florida, in December 1949, deploying regularly to Bermuda, Sicily, Spain, the Azores, Puerto Rico, Iceland, Newfoundland, and the Philippines. Continuing a well established record of long range maritime warfighting and surveillance excellence, the Mad Foxes excelled in Cold War Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) and Anti-Surface Warfare (ASUW) encounters with Soviet and Soviet-aligned forces.
VP-5 aided the post-mission, seaborne recovery of one of America's first astronauts, Commander Alan Shepard, Jr., on 5 May 1961. Later in the year, VP-5 contributed to Captain Virgil Grissom’s project Mercury post-mission recovery.
The cost of freedom became readily apparent to Mad Foxes everywhere when the squadron endured a tremendous setback the following year. On 12 January, 1962, squadron Executive Officer Commander Norbert Kozak launched in LA-9 from Keflavik for an ice patrol mission along the Greenland coast. In an apparent controlled flight into terrain episode, the aircraft crashed into the upslope of the Kronborg Glacier near the Denmark Strait, killing all twelve men aboard. In 2004, the Navy accomplished a daunting recovery of remains and memorialized the crew at the crash site.
In October 1962, VP-5 became one of the first and most critical units supporting President John F. Kennedy’s ordered quarantine of Cuba. Staging patrols from Jacksonville, Roosevelt Roads, and Guantanamo Bay, Mad Fox crews encountered, photographed, and tracked the lead Soviet ship inbound to Cuba in advance of its contact with USN surface forces.
In June 1966, VP-5 transitioned to the Lockheed P-3A Orion and in the following years consistently succeeded in prosecuting front-line Soviet submarines in the Atlantic and Mediterranean. Squadron crews also participated in Yankee Station patrols off of Vietnam. Duties included anti-filtration and open ocean surveillance flights, and night radar coverage of the Gulf of Tonkin in defense of USN aircraft carriers.
In early 1974, VP-5 transitioned to the P-3C Orion and began writing the next chapter in operational excellence with further Cold War triumphs over Soviet targets in the Atlantic and Mediterranean. Mad Fox crews continued to be first on-scene for some of the period’s most notable maritime incidents. In February 1986, a VP-5 crew launched following the Challenger disaster and located the space shuttle nose cone to help direct recovery vessels to the site. During August of the same year, another VP-5 crew spotted a disabled Soviet Yankee class submarine. The Mad Foxes remained on-top the stricken submarine for the final hours it remained afloat and provided critical information to the chain of command during an episode that had the focused attention of national security decision makers.
While deployed to Sigonella in August 2001, VP-5 repositioned to Souda Bay, Crete, following the September 11th terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D. C. to provide support in the early stages of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM.
In support of the war in Iraq, the Mad Foxes simultaneously operated from as many as eight sites. The P-3C demonstrated its versatility flying some of the first sorties over northern Iraq, braving known high-threat areas to provide critical real-time intelligence to U.S. forces engaged with the enemy.
In 2011, VP-5 completed a complex tri-site deployment to El Salvador, Sigonella, and Djibouti. While flying in support of Operation ODYSSEY DAWN, the Mad Foxes launched the first successful employment of an AGM-65F Maverick missile against a hostile target in the history of Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance aircraft. In a joint effort with other US assets, the actions of the Mad Foxes that day saved the lives of several merchant sailors.
In May 2012 Patrol Squadron FIVE deployed to Kadena Airbase in Okinawa, Japan and the SEVENTH Fleet Area of Responsibility. Bringing the first five Command, Control, Communication, and Computer Anti-Submarine Warfare (C4ASW) modified Orion seen in the theater. VP-5 completed an impressive 30 detachments to countries including Australia, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Palau, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand.
After 39 years, VP-5 retired the P-3C Orion and transitioned to the P-8A Poseidon. Following Safe-for-Flight certification, the "Mad Foxes" independently launched the P-8A Poseidon for the first time on 6 August 2013. In July 2014, VP-5 began its inaugural deployment of the P-8A to Okinawa, Japan. The Mad Foxes executed over 20 detachments to countries and territories including Australia, Malaysia, Diego Garcia, Bangladesh, Guam, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and the Republic of Korea.
The P-8A enables excellence on station while performing the essential tasks Patrol Squadron FIVE has excelled at for over 70 years. Currently, the Mad Foxes continue to move forward as one of the premier Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Aviation squadrons while embodying their motto ‘No Fox like a Mad Fox!’
Command awards include:
Battle "E": 1951, 1952, 1958, 1975, 1976, 1992, 1998, 2001
Retention Excellence Award: 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2012
CAPT Arnold Jay Isbell Trophy: 1994, 2009, 2012