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. Additionally, the Mad Foxes continued to answer the nation’s call to service whenever it came. 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, fulfilling a dream of many active duty and retired Maritime Patrol Aviation (MPA) Sailors.
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. Once again, MPA’s long legs and stalwart crews validated their value to the nation.
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 with clear national security implications.
Following the U.S. victory in the Cold War and subsequent dismantling of the Soviet Union, MPA continued to maintain core ASW competencies while serving the nation in other warfare areas. Flying the Orion Update III, the Mad Foxes deployed in early 1991 to Rota, Spain, with extended detachments to Souda Bay in direct support of Operations DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM.
In August 1995, VP-5 became the first squadron to cover the entire Atlantic Ocean operational MPA requirement alone. “Tri-sited” between Keflavik, Puerto Rico, and Panama, VP-5 helped usher in an era of multiple detachments within a single deployment. In February 1997, the squadron repeated the deployment, maintaining high operational tempo in support of Keflavik-based ASW and NATO interoperability flights and Caribbean drug interdiction flights. Amassing over 6,000 flight hours through the six-month deployment, VP-5 contributed to a U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) year-long total interdiction effort valued at over one billion dollars.
In 1998, VP-5 became the first East Coast deployer with the P-3C Aircraft Improvement Program (AIP) modification. Originally designated as the ASUW Improvement Program modification, the new warfighting suite enabled MPA fliers to improve their already formidable contributions to national security objectives during the Balkans Wars. The Mad Foxes excelled in missions over Bosnia-Herzegovina in support of Operation DELIBERATE FORGE and over Kosovo in Operation EAGLE EYE, bringing to the theater the first long-legs, all-weather, day or night, overland reconnaissance sensor-to-shooter platform.
Deployed to Sigonella in August 2001, VP-5 relocated multiple crews and aircraft to Souda Bay, Crete, following the September 11th terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D. C. Following the commencement of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, the Mad Foxes provided the backbone of a sweeping theater-wide Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance operation with 1,100 sorties encompassing 6,600 mishap-free flight hours. Additionally, the squadron supported continued efforts to maintain peace and stability in the Balkans with flawless performances in Operations DELIBERATE FORGE and JOINT GUARDIAN.
On the eve of the Iraq War, Mad Foxes once again packed their seabags for deployment and in the months that followed proved their resilience and flexibility. In a deployment unprecedented in its scope of detached operations, the Mad Foxes executed 5,800 flight hours while operating from as many as eight sites simultaneously. VP-5 succeeded across a host of missions, including Pacific and Caribbean counter-drug operations, sensitive SOUTHCOM overland reconnaissance operations, Atlantic and Mediterranean armed escort missions, and critical surface surveillance missions in the Red Sea during U.S. combat operations against Iraq. The Navy’s premier ASW and maritime surveillance crews also flexed to Operation IRAQI FREEDOM requirements, completing the first P-3C sortie over northern Iraq, braving known high-threat areas to provide critical real-time intelligence to U.S. forces engaged with the enemy.
During their 2006-2007 deployment, the Mad Foxes conducted operations simultaneously in three operational theatres in support of the Global War on Terrorism and the War on Drugs. In SOUTHCOM, VP-5 aircrews executed nearly 150 missions in support of counter drug operations, resulting in 30 metric tons of drugs seized. In U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), Mad Foxes flew over 70 missions in support of Operations ENDURING FREEDOM and IRAQI FREEDOM. In U.S. European Command (EUCOM), VP-5 flew 36 missions in direct support of Operation ACTIVE ENDEAVOR and reinitiated support of Kosovo Force (KFOR).
In February 2008, VP-5 conducted a surge to Sigonella, Sicily, organizing and establishing PATRON Sigonella, a pioneering command encompassing elements from five different organizations. The Mad Fox leadership led PATRON SIG to unsurpassed operational achievements, providing combat ready power supporting Combatant Commander commitments and demonstrating the Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Aviation (MPRA) expeditionary operational model of the future.
In 2009, VP-5 was called upon for a multi-site deployment to include both SOUTHCOM and U. S. Pacific Command (PACOM) sites. In SOUTHCOM, VP-5 provided combat ready aircrews to execute missions in support of Joint Interagency Task Force South’s (JIATF-S) counter narcotics mission. They successfully prevented narco-terrorists and illicit drug traffickers from delivering over 30.7 metric tons of illegal narcotics worth over 2.8 billion dollars to the shores of the United States. This deployment also included redeployment to Netal, Brazil, to support the search and rescue effort for Air France Flight 447. VP-5 coordinated operations and search tactics with the Brazilian Search and Rescue Center and flew three flights searching over 6000 square miles of sea space.
In PACOM, VP-5 expertly directed the MPRA effort during several multi-national events. The Mad Foxes orchestrated and executed a bi-lateral ASW prosecution utilizing U.S. and Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) assets resulting in over 165 hours of contact time. VP-5’s ASW prowess was officially recognized with the receipt of the 2009 Captain Arnold Jay Isbell Trophy.
Afterwards in 2011, VP-5 completed a very demanding and complex tri-site deployment. There were 12 crews deployed to El Salvador, Sigonella, and Djibuoti, in support of CTG 47.1, CTG 67.1, and CTG 67.5. In response to many world events, VP-5 participated in major operations to include ODYSSEY DAWN, UNIFIED PROTECTOR, CAPER FOCUS and ENDURING FREEDOM. VP-5 sent detachments to France (SPONTEX, George.H.W. Bush Strike Group ASWEX), Greece, Sicily, and Spain (Enterprise ENCOUNTEREX) to support other United States assets and multi-nation exercises. The squadron flew over 3,956 flight hours. One of the major highlights during deployment was the historic AGM-65F Maverick engagement during Operation ODYSSEY DAWN. This was the first successful employment of a Maverick against a hostile target in the history of Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Aircraft.
During VP-5’s following 12 month Inter-Deployment Readiness Cycle the Mad Foxes demonstrated their exceptional skill set in support of USS Iwo Jima Composite Training Exercise (COMPTUEX) and Operation BOLD ALLIGATOR, the largest joint and multinational amphibious assault exercise in the past ten years. Furthermore, in early 2012 Patrol Squadron FIVE continued their tradition of tackling new challenges in Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Aviation as the first operational squadron to receive the Command, Control, Communications, and Computers for Anti-Submarine Warfare (C4ASW) upgrade for the P-3C. This upgrade included Link-16 and international maritime satellite capabilities, greatly enhancing the P-3C’s communication suite. The hard work of maintenance personnel and aircrew enabled VP-5 to utilize the upgrade on station and pass on to its sister squadrons techniques that contributed to a higher mission completion rate.
In May 2012 Patrol Squadron FIVE deployed to Kadena Airbase in Okinawa, Japan and the SEVENTH Fleet Area of Responsibility. Bringing the first five C4ASW modified Orions seen in the theater, the Mad Foxes immediately began providing timely and accurate Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR), Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA), and ASW products to high level authorities in PACOM, all while practicing the ‘hub and two spoke’ method of detaching combat aircrews to Western Pacific Nations to build and foster relationships with allied countries in an ever important and dynamic region. VP-5 completed an impressive 30 detachments to countries including Australia, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Palau, Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand. Furthermore, the summer of 2012 proved to be the busiest typhoon season in years and required the Mad Foxes to evacuate the island of Okinawa 11 times. While deployed, the squadron participated in a variety of major exercises and operations including Operation ISLAND CHIEF, Operation ENDURING FREEDOM – Philippines, Exercise VALIANT SHIELD, Exercise KEEN SWORD, and Operation KURU KURU.
Shortly after returning from deployment, the Mad Foxes began 2013 by transitioning to the P-8A Poseidon after flying the P-3C for over 39 years. The P-8A provides continued growth potential while performing the essential tasks Patrol Squadron FIVE has excelled at for over 70 years. 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, and 2001, Retention Excellence Award: 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, Captain Arnold Jay Isbell Trophy: 2009, 2012