For over seven decades, the command now recognized as Patrol Squadron FIVE (VP-5) has served the cause of freedom. The Sailors and aviators who comprised this squadron’s rolls helped build a record of Maritime Patrol Aviation (MPA) warfighting excellence and extraordinary achievement in its service.
Commissioned in 1937 and initially designated as VP-17, the Navy's second oldest VP squadron flew and maintained the PM-1. The first squadron patch depicted a seal balancing a bomb on its nose to represent operations in Alaska and Pacific Northwest sites. In 1938, VP-17 transitioned to the PBY-2, changed designation to VP-42 in 1939, and accepted the amphibious-capable PBY-5A in 1942.
Role in World War II
During World War II, the squadron directly contributed to some of the earliest Allied victories in the Pacific theater. In February 1943, the Navy re-designated VP-42 as Bombing Squadron ONE THIRTY FIVE (VB-135) at Whidbey Island, Washington. Nicknamed the "Blind Fox" squadron to reflect the squadron's method of flying “blind” through heavy weather and enemy fire, the squadron altered its patch to depict a blindfolded fox riding a flying gas tank carrying a bomb and cane.
In August 1943, the Blind Foxes joined sister squadrons in bombing Kiska Harbor during the "Kiska Blitz", hastening the Japanese abandonment of the island and avoiding 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.
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. Re-designated 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.
The VP-5 Mad Foxes and the Cold War
In 1948, the squadron moved to the Lockheed P2V Neptune, equipped with Magnetic Anomaly Detection (MAD) equipment capable of detecting large magnetic objects underwater. The technology to detect submerged submarines through non-acoustic means was a giant leap in Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) and manifested itself in the squadron's operations, its name, and patch. Designated as VP-5 in December, the squadron became known as the “Mad Foxes” and changed the patch to depict a fox preparing to strike a submarine with a sledgehammer.
The Mad Foxes moved to Jacksonville, Florida in December 1949. Throughout the Cold War, deployments focused on ASW and Anti-Surface Warfare (ASUW) against Soviet and Soviet-aligned forces. VP-5 made its mark on space history in May 1961 when it aided the post-mission seaborne recovery of Commander Alan Shepard, Jr. and later in the recovery of Captain Virgil Grissom post Project Mercury.
On January 12, 1962, the squadron endured a terrible tragedy during an ice patrol mission along the Greenland coast, when an aircraft crashed into the Kronborg Glacier and killed Executive Officer Commander Norbert Kozak and all crew onboard.
VP-5 was one of the first and most critical units to support President John F. Kennedy’s quarantine of Cuba in October 1962. Patrols from Jacksonville, Roosevelt Roads, and Guantanamo Bay tracked the lead Soviet ship bound to Cuba in advance of contact with United States Navy (USN) surface forces.
The P-3 Orion
In June 1966, VP-5 transitioned to the Lockheed P-3A Orion and consistently prosecuted front-line Soviet submarines in the Atlantic and Mediterranean. Squadron crews also participated in Yankee Station patrols off of Vietnam during 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. 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 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.
VP-5 became the first squadron to cover the entire Atlantic Ocean operational MPA requirement alone in August 1995. “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 supported Keflavik-based ASW and NATO interoperability flights and Caribbean drug interdiction flights, contributing 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. 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 theater the first long endurance, all-weather, day or night, overland reconnaissance sensor-to-shooter platform.
Global War on Terrorism and Beyond
Deployed to Sigonella, Sicily in August 2001, VP-5 relocated multiple crews and aircraft to Souda Bay, Crete, following the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. During Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, the Mad Foxes provided the backbone of sweeping theater-wide Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) operations with 1,100 sorties encompassing 6,600 mishap-free flight hours. The squadron supported 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 in 2003, the Mad Foxes left for deployment, this time operating from as many as eight sites simultaneously. VP-5 succeeded in 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. Crews also flexed to Operation IRAQI FREEDOM requirements, completing the first P-3C sortie over northern Iraq, braving high-threat areas to provide critical real-time intelligence to U.S. forces engaged with the enemy.
During its 2006-2007 deployment, the Mad Foxes conducted operations simultaneously in SOUTHCOM supporting counter-narcotics operations, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) in support of Operations ENDURING FREEDOM and IRAQI FREEDOM, and in U.S. European Command (EUCOM) supporting Operation ACTIVE ENDEAVOR and reinitiated support of Kosovo Force (KFOR). In February 2008, VP-5 conducted a surge deployment back to Sigonella, establishing PATRON Sigonella, a pioneering command encompassing elements from five different organizations.
The squadron conducted a multi-site deployment in 2009 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 and prevented narco-terrorists and illicit drug traffickers from delivering over 2.8 billion dollars of illegal narcotics to U.S. shores. This deployment also included a mission to Netal, Brazil in support of the search and rescue effort for Air France Flight 447. In PACOM, VP-5 orchestrated and executed a bi-lateral ASW prosecution with the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF), leading to the Squadron earning the 2009 Captain Arnold Jay Isbell Trophy.
In 2011, VP-5 completed a another tri-site deployment to El Salvador, Sigonella, and Djibuoti. VP-5 participated in major operations to include Operations ODYSSEY DAWN, UNIFIED PROTECTOR, CAPER FOCUS and ENDURING FREEDOM. While supporting ODYSSEY DAWN, the squadron achieved the first successful employment of an AGM-65 Maverick missile 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 supported USS Iwo Jima Composite Training Exercise COMPTUEX and Operation BOLD ALLIGATOR, the largest joint and multinational amphibious assault exercise in the past ten years. In early 2012, VP-5 was 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.
In May 2012, the squadron deployed to Kadena Airbase in Okinawa, Japan and completed detachments to 30countries, participating 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.
The P-8A Poseidon
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 proved its worth on station with its advanced warfighting capabilities and long-range maritime patrol ability. In March of 2016, VP-5 embarked on their first dual-site deployment in the P-8A in support of 5th and 7th Fleet. During those six months, the Mad Foxes traveled to 13 countries in Asia and the South Pacific to include Australia, Brunei, Fiji, Thailand and Singapore. They achieved a 99 percent mission completion rate while executing 5,016.5 flight hours in some of the most demanding conditions around the world.
During the 2017 home cycle, VP-5 was the first P-8A squadron to earn the Battle Efficiency (Battle “E”) award as a result of their efforts from the previous deployment. The Battle “E” is an annual award recognizing a command for its display of exceptional performance, efficiency, and mission readiness throughout the year.
In September of 2017, the ‘Mad Foxes’ departed on another dual-site deployment. This was the first time a P-8A had operated out of El Salvador in 4th Fleet. The successful operations included numerous counter-narcotics missions resulting in the seizure or disruption of over 33,000 kilograms of illegal narcotics with a street value of over $2 billion. While in 6th Fleet, the ‘Mad Foxes’ detatched to of 11 different nations across Europe and the Middle East from their primary base of operations in NAS Sigonella, Italy.
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!’