Carrier Air Wing THREE - A History
Established on July 1, 1938, Carrier Air Wing THREE (CVW-3) is one of the oldest air wings in the U.S. Navy. Initially commissioned as Saratoga Air Group, CVW-3 participated in many fleet exercises introducing Carrier Aviation to the Fleet. During World War II, Carrier Air Wing THREE served onboard USS SARATOGA (CV 3), USS YORKTOWN (CV 5) and USS ENTERPRISE (CV 6), participating in many naval engagements in the Pacific theater. Team Battle Axe fought in the battles of Midway, Guadalcanal, Philippine Sea and Iwo Jima, and flew many strikes against the Japanese home islands.
In 1950, CVW-3 sailed aboard USS LEYTE (CV 32) through the Panama Canal en route to the Pacific. The Korean War saw the wing flying in support of the Pusan Perimeter, the invasion of Wonsan and strikes on the Hungnam Salient and Yalu River Bridges. CVW-3 flew nearly 11,000 hours of operations against North Korean and Chinese Communist forces. In January 1958, Team Battle Axe joined USS SARATOGA (CV 60), establishing a ship-air wing partnership that spanned almost a quarter century. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, CVW-3 deployed primarily to the Mediterranean.
In 1972, CVW-3 and SARATOGA were given 60 hours notice before sailing around South America en route to Vietnam. During this 11-month deployment, CVW-3 conducted strike and support sorties in South Vietnam, and ALPHA strikes, AAW missions, and reconnaissance missions over North Vietnam. CVW-3’s first MiG kill came on June 21, 1972 when an F-4J downed a MiG-21. During that arduous deployment, CVW-3 spent 175 days engaged in combat and dropped over 14,000 tons of ordnance.
In 1982, CVW-3 joined USS JOHN F. KENNEDY (CV 67). From 1982 to 1989, CVW-3 and JFK made three Mediterranean deployments. In January 1989, CVW-3 and KENNEDY conducted freedom of navigation operations which challenged Libya’s “Line of Death” in the Gulf of Sidra. During this operation, two CVW-3 F-14 Tomcats shot down two hostile Libyan MiG fighter aircraft over international waters in the Central Mediterranean.
In August 1990, CVW-3 and KENNEDY deployed to the Red Sea in support of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. During the Persian Gulf War, CVW-3 delivered over 3,795,000 pounds of ordnance and flew 2,895 sorties without the loss of a single life or aircraft. From 1992 through 1997, CVW-3 completed three more Mediterranean deployments onboard USS JOHN F. KENNEDY (CV 67), USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER (CVN 69) and USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT (CVN 71). CVW-3 supported United Nations operations in Bosnia and enforced the no-fly zone over Iraq in support of Operation Southern Watch. In November 1997, CVW-3, under operational control of Commander, Cruiser Destroyer Group TWELVE, embarked onboard USS ENTERPRISE (CVN 65) and deployed to the Persian Gulf and Mediterranean Sea. During this deployment, the air wing fired the opening salvo in Operation Desert Fox by striking targets in southern Iraq.
In November 2000, CVW-3 marked its 25TH deployment by joining USS HARRY S. TRUMAN (CVN 75) on her first combat cruise. The Battle Axe-TRUMAN team spent four months on station in the Arabian Gulf conducting several response option strikes in support of Operation Southern Watch.
In December 2002, CVW-3 and TRUMAN departed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, remaining in theater for the opening stages of Operation Iraqi Freedom. CVW-3 launched aircraft off the coast of Egypt in the Southeastern Mediterranean Sea in support of operations in Western Iraq.
From October 2004 to April 2005, CVW-3 deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. When Hurricane Katrina struck in September 2005, the CVW-3 aircraft provided logistical assistance in support of disaster recovery operations in New Orleans, leading to the rescue of several stranded victims.
Team Battle Axe has since completed two highly successful deployments to the Arabian Gulf, supporting Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom from November 2007 to June 2008, and most recently, Operations Enduring Freedom and New Dawn from May 2010 to December 2010.