Early History: Electronic Attack Squadron ONE FOUR TWO (VAQ 142) was established 1 June, 1988, in response to the Navy’s requirement for a thirteenth operational EA-6B squadron. The VAQ-142 “Grim Watchdogs” made their first and only deployment with Carrier Air Wing SIX (CVW 6) onboard USS FORRESTAL (CV 59) to the Mediterranean Sea in 1989-90. In less than three years as a squadron, VAQ-142 aviators flew aboard USS CARL VINSON (CVN 70), USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN (CVN 72), USS FORRESTAL (CV 59), USS INDEPENDENCE (CV 62), USS SARATOGA (CV 60) and USS MIDWAY (CV 43). The squadron logged more than 3,600 flight hours and 860 traps before standing down in March 1991. After the “Grim Watchdogs” disestablished, remaining squadron personnel were transferred to a pre-establishment detachment for VAQ-35. On June 1, 1991 VAQ-35 was established with the Electronic Warfare Support mission, under the cognizance of Fleet Electronic Warfare Support Group (FEWSG). In their short history, VAQ-35 made over forty-two detachments to more than sixteen locations as far away as Puerto Rico, Bermuda and the Hawaiian Islands. In October 1993, due to further reductions in defense spending, VAQ-35 was disestablished, and their mission was absorbed by reserve squadrons based in the east and west coasts. In 1994, the Department of Defense made a decision to replace the Air Force’s aging EF-111A Raven Fleet with additional EA-6B squadrons in order to meet the electronic attack needs of both services.
Return of the Gray Wolves: On 3 April 1997, VAQ-142, the fourth of five new EA-6B squadrons, was re-established. For the next four years, VAQ-142 participated in numerous exercises around the world. In 2001, the Gray Wolves deployed to Prince Sultan Air Base, Saudi Arabia, and later from 2002 to 2003 to Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, in support of Operations SOUTHERN WATCH and NORTHERN WATCH.
Global War on Terror: In December 2003, the Gray Wolves received a short notice deployment order to Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, to support Operation ENDURING FREEDOM. Seven workdays later, 2003 came to a close with four fully mission-capable EA-6Bs conducting a trans-Atlantic flight enroute to Bagram Air Base, where squadron maintenance personnel were already in place awaiting their arrival. VAQ-142 was the first complete Navy squadron to deploy to Afghanistan. In 2006, the Gray Wolves left in mid-July for deployment to Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, completing sorties within 16 hours of arriving in country and flying missions for the next 187 days until heading home in late January 2007. For the Gray Wolves’ exceptional performance in 2006 they were awarded the 2006 Battle 'E' as well as the 2006 CNO Aviation Safety Award. In October 2007, the Gray Wolves deployed to Al Asad Airbase, Iraq, for six months as a forward deployed expeditionary squadron, logging 3,694 combat flight hours in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. In January 2009, the Gray Wolves again deployed to Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. The Gray Wolves logged 1,981 combat flight hours and received the 2009 CVWP Semi-Annual Safety “S” for their continued exceptional performance. In May 2010, the Gray Wolves returned Al Asad AB, Iraq for another deployment. The squadron flew 1750 combat hours in support of Operations IRAQI FREEDOM and NEW DAWN.
Return to the Air Wing: After thirteen years as an expeditionary squadron, VAQ-142 returned to carrier aviation in March 2011 with a Carrier Qualification Detachment aboard the USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). In May 2011, the Gray Wolves joined Carrier Air Wing ELEVEN (CVW 11) attached to USS Nimitz (CVN 68), and shortly after transitioned to the Improved Capability (ICAP) III airframe.
The Gray Wolves began work ups for deployment in April 2012, and in August 2012, VAQ-142 completed the first squadron carrier detachment in over 21 years as part of the 2012 Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC). In April 2012, VAQ-142 deployed with the USS NIMITZ as part of CVW-11 for a planned six month deployment to the FIFTH Fleet AOR.
In support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, the Gray Wolves flew 93 combat sorties totaling 637 flight hours and a 100% combat sortie completion rate. While returning to home port, the NIMITZ Strike Group was unexpectedly redirected to the Red Sea in response to the Syrian chemical weapons crisis. After several extensions in the Red Sea, the Gray Wolves ultimately completed a nine-month deployment that included operators in the U.S. THIRD, FIFTH, SIXTH, and SEVENTH Fleet AORs. VAQ-142 is currently at its homeport of NAS Whidbey Island, WA, conducting training and sustainment operations. Over the next year, the Gray Wolves are scheduled to begin transition to the EA-18G Growler airframe.