History of

Patrol Squadron TWO SIX

 

TRIDENTS

 

Patrol Squadron VP-26, a member of Patrol Wing Eleven, is a Maritime Patrol Squadron with a worldwide theater of operations.  Mission areas include: Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW), Anti-Surface Warfare (ASU), Command and Control Warfare (C2W), Command, Control, and Communications (CCC), Intelligence (INT), Mine Warfare (MIW), and Mobility (MOB).  Although the “TRIDENTS” are homeported at U.S. (Naval Air Station) NAS Jacksonville, Florida, their reputation is known throughout the world. The Tridents have demonstrated success in all of these tasks and in all the services performed, one thing remains constant: Team Trident is at the ready, supporting the mission… Anytime… Anywhere

 

HISTORY OF PATROL SQUADRON TWO SIX

Patrol Squadron TWO SIX (VP-26), a member of Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing ELEVEN, is a Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Squadron with a worldwide theater of operations. Mission areas include long range anti-submarine warfare (ASW), anit-surface warfare (ASuW) and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR). The VP-26 "TRIDENTS" are home-ported at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida.

The squadron's history can be traced back to August 1943, when Bombing Squadron 114 (VB-114) was commissioned at Naval Air Station Norfolk, Virginia. The first aircraft assigned to the squadron was the PBY4-1 "Liberator." Five years after the VB-114 was commissioned, the designation of the squadron was changed to Patrol Squadron TWO SIX.

ASW has been a primary mission area for the squadron since it was commissioned. From June 1944 to February 1945, under the control of Fleet Air Wing (FAW) SEVEN, VB-114 maintained a detachment of six searchlight equipped “Liberators” at Dunkeswell, England where they protected the Allied Fleet from U-Boat attacks during the Normandy invasion. Following World War II, the squadron was based at Port Lyautey, Morocco, and Key West, Florida, participating in the Berlin Airlift and becoming the first U.S. Navy unit to fly hurricane reconnaissance.

On April 8th 1950, a VP-26 PB4Y-2 “Privateer”, designated “HB 7,” took off from Wiesbaden Air Base, West Germany, on an intelligence gathering mission. The aircraft was intercepted by four Soviet La-11 fighters while flying over the Baltic Sea, southwest of Liepaja, Latvia. After refusing the “follow me” signals of the fighters, HB 7 was shot down and became the first publicized shootdown of the Cold War. In 1951, the squadron received the P-2 “Neptune” aircraft while stationed at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland. Soon after Naval Air Station Brunswick, Maine was re-commissioned, VP-26 was the first squadron ordered aboard.

During the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, several squadron aircraft were deployed on short notice to Naval Air Station Key West, Florida. These crews arrived one day after President Kennedy's historic speech of 22 October and flew over 1000 hours in direct support of this crisis. October 1965 marked the beginning of a new era for the Tridents. After fifteen years of faithful service, the P-2 "Neptune" was replaced by the P-3 "Orion," and on January 4th, 1966, Commanding Officer, Commander James H. Cullen, ferried the first fleet P-3B from Burbank, California to Naval Air Station Brunswick, Maine.

In the fall of 1967, Patrol Squadron TWO SIX deployed to Southeast Asia where it averaged 1500 hours per month of combat flight operations from the Philippines and Thailand. In February and April, 1968, two VP-26 P-3C Orion’s were shot down during Operation Market Time, a tragic and painful loss of 24 Tridents. Upon the squadron's return in June 1968, squadron flight crewmembers were awarded the Vietnam Service and Campaign Medal, and several Air Medals. In August 1968, VP-26 was awarded the Fleet Air Wing THREE "E" for Battle Efficiency.

Throughout the 1970's, 1980's and 1990's VP-26 conducted operations throughout the Atlantic, Mediterranean and Western Pacific theaters. Deployment sites included Sigonella, Rota, Lajes, Keflavik, Kadena, Misawa, Bermuda, Panama and Puerto Rico.

In August of 1996, Patrol Squadron TWO SIX continued to set records during their tri-site deployment to Keflavik, Puerto Rico and Panama. The Tridents interdicted more than $1.9 billion in narcotics and had the highest total contact time on "real world" submarines of any U.S. Maritime Patrol Aircraft squadron in the previous four years. They participated in numerous exercises including NATO CJTFEX Northern Lights/Bright Horizon ‘96, KEFLACEX 1-96, and were the first military unit invited to participate in the Norwegian national exercise FLOTEX ‘96. Tridents deployed throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s to Sigonella, Keflavik and Roosevelt Roads continued support of NATO operations, counter-narcotics missions and other multi-national exercises.

Following the events of September 11th, 2001, Patrol Squadron TWO SIX moved to a heightened state of readiness. The squadron supported the War on Terrorism by taking part in various Homeland Defense operations. On April 7, 2003, a crew and maintenance support personnel departed for the Mediterranean to participate in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Over the next several years, the squadron supported missions for Operations Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom, Active Endeavor, Joint Guardian, Deliberate Forge, Caper Focus, and Carib Shield along with exercises Noble Manta, Brilliant Mariner, Shark Hunt, Arabian Shark, Foal Eagle, Anatolian Sun, Shamrock Key and Able Warrior. In February 2007, the Tridents were recognized with the Capt. Arnold J. Isbell trophy for ASW excellence, the Gold Anchor for retention excellence, and in October 2008, the squadron received the Commander Naval Air Force Battle “E” for Battle Efficiency.

In November 2009, Patrol Squadron TWO SIX deployed from Naval Air Station Brunswick, Maine, for the last time before beginning the transition to Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida. The Tridents were the last squadron of Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing FIVE to leave Brunswick for Jacksonville and their new home with Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing ELEVEN.

Patrol Squadron TWO SIX deployed in December 2011 to the U.S. FIFTH Fleet Area of Responsibility (AOR). The squadron flew missions in support of Operation New Dawn, Operation Enduring Freedom and conducted maritime surveillance operations in the Arabian Gulf, Straits of Hormuz, Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea. The squadron supported the Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group (CSG), flying 57 armed sorties in operations including Nautical Union, Desert Dragon, Noble Prophet, and a detachment to Masirah, Oman.

Patrol Squadron TWO SIX deployed in May 2013 to the SEVENTH Fleet AOR, marking the first integrated active and reserve P-3C deployment. The Tridents executed 245 operational missions and 3,808 flight hours in support of 28 multi-national exercises, 20 U.S. maritime exercises, and 23 detachments to 12 countries, including the first U.S. P-3C detachment to New Zealand since 1984. The Trident’s also performed the first dual LSRS mission, the first VQ-LSRS cross cueing operation and the first complete image collection of a priority target in support of Commander, U.S.

Seventh Fleet. Trident crews executed 184 ASW missions and accumulated 412 ASW contact hours on nine different classes of foreign submarines. Following Super Typhoon Haiyan, the squadron responded with the first U.S. Navy aircraft on scene to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to the Republic of the Philippines in support of Operation Damayan.

In January 2015, Patrol Squadron TWO SIX deployed to Isa Air Base, Bahrain and maintained detachment sites in Incirlik, Turkey and Comalapa, El Salvador. This deployment marked the last deployment of P-3C’s from east coast squadrons. Early in the El Salvador detachment, the crew seized more than 530 kilograms of cocaine worth an estimated $17 million and, ultimately, disrupted $625 million worth of narcotics shipments in cooperation with U.S. Coast Guard and Canadian forces. The Tridents also executed 3,500 overland combat hours across the FIFTH and SIXTH Fleet AORs in support of Operation Inherent Resolve and other multi-national efforts, including the Struggle Against Violent Extremism. Patrol Squadron TWO SIX participated in a ceremony that marked the 65th anniversary of the first US aircraft shot down by the Soviets in the Cold War and was attended by key leaders and over one hundred members of the Latvia military.

In March 2016, Patrol Squadron TWO SIX accepted their first P-8A “Poseidon” and completed their squadron transition to the P-8A in May 2016. In March of 2017 the Tridents left for their first operational deployment in the P-8A “Poseidon” to the U.S. SEVENTH Fleet Area of Responsibility (AOR).

During its illustrious history, Patrol Squadron TWO SIX has enjoyed success in a wide variety of areas. The Tridents have been recognized with eight Battle Efficiency "E" Awards, the most recent in 2015, five Capt. Arnold Jay Isbell Trophies, two Arleigh Burke Fleet Trophy Awards, the most recent in 2015, two Golden Wrench awards for maintenance excellence, two Navy Unit Commendations, ten Meritorious Unit Commendations, two Coast Guard Meritorious Unit Commendation, one Coast Guard Unit Commendation, three Navy Expeditionary Medals, two Armed Forces Expeditionary Medals, four Joint Meritorious Unit Awards, and the Gold, Silver, and Bronze Anchors for retention excellence. Other commendations earned by the Tridents include two CNO Letters of Commendation, two SECNAV Letters of Commendation, two Medical Blue "M" Award and the Blue “H” Award for health promotion and wellness. Despite all of these accolades, the Tridents take the most pride in the six Chief of Naval Operations Safety Awards they have earned. VP-26 achieved these successes while adding to its phenomenal safety record, surpassing 54 years and 356,703 hours of mishap-free flying. In the years ahead, the Tridents anticipate more challenging deployments to guard liberty and protect our nation's interests with evermore exciting and capable tools in the hands of America's finest sons and daughters. 

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