2000s - Global War on Terror
Beginning with the terrorist attack on the USS COLE in 2000 and continuing to the present day, VP-40 has provided continued support for the Global War on Terrorism. Less than 12 hours after terrorists detonated explosives alongside USS COLE in the port of Aden, Yemen, a Fighting Marlin aircrew provided the first American response to the tragedy, carrying supplies and support personnel. On a subsequent deployment, VP-40 seized the initiative in creating a new detachment in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM-PHILIPPINES (OEF-P). While there, the squadron's efforts were instrumental in the rescue of American hostages, who had been held captive for over a year. In May 2003, Patrol Squadron FORTY's tri-site deployment to Diego Garcia, Masirah, Oman, and Bahrain brought a continued contribution to Operations ENDURING FREEDOM (OEF) and IRAQI FREEDOM (OIF). The Fighting Marlins answered the nation's call in supporting operations ranging from maritime surveillance in the Persian Gulf to overland Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Horn of Africa. In addition, the squadron presided over the historic closure of the United States' presence at Masirah Air Base, Oman, after 25 years of military operations. VP-40 was nominated for the Captain Arnold J. Isbell Trophy for ASW and ASUW excellence, for the second consecutive CNO Safety Award, and for a record-setting fourth consecutive Golden Wrench award.
In May 2005, VP-40 deployed to Misawa, Japan, Kadena, Japan, and Clark Air Base, Philippines in support of OEF-P. While deployed to the SEVENTH Fleet Area of Operations, the Fighting Marlins amassed over 5,000 mishap free flight hours, maintained 80 percent aircraft ready for tasking rate and exceeded all unit combat readiness requirements. Additionally, the Fighting Marlins demonstrated superb expertise in flying over 1,200 combat flight hours in support of OEF-P while directing ground units in direct contact with enemy forces. Furthermore, they provided seamless support, training and guidance during 31 multi-lateral operations and exercises operating from 17 detachment sites throughout THIRD and SEVENTH Fleets. The Fighting Marlins aggressive forward airborne presence furthered the interoperability of P-3/TACAIR SLAM-ER tactics, VP/VQ coordination and Battlegroup support, culminating in the West Coast Battle Excellence Award nomination from Commander, Patrol and Reconnaissance Group for 2005.
In 2006, the squadron's tactical accomplishments the previous year earned them the 2005 CNAP Battle Efficiency Award. The squadron continued to excel and participated in NORPAC, VALIANT SHIELD and VASA exercises. Additionally, aircrew and maintainers supported RIMPAC, AIR WARRIOR, USS BOXER's JTFEX and CVW-9 AIRWING FALLON. Throughout September, October and November, VP-40 was the lead squadron to support ASUW, ASW and MIO efforts for STENNIS Strike Group during her IAC2, COMPTUEX and JTFEX, accomplishing a 100 percent sortie completion rate.
In May 2007, VP-40 began a highly successful deployment to Al Udeid, Qatar, in support of OIF and OEF, setting a new standard for excellence. During the deployment, VP-40 flew a record-breaking 10,500 flight hours and over 1,600 sorties while achieving an outstanding 92 percent mission completion rate. Reaching this milestone is a testament not only to the aircrew who flew the missions, but to the entire Fighting Marlin team. In addition to OEF and OIF, VP-40 flew missions in support of Joint Task Force Horn-of-Africa (JTF-HOA), Exercises TALISMAN SABER, VALIANT SHIELD, and multiple Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force operations in SEVENTH Fleet.
Although most primary missions were flown out of Qatar and Iraq, the Fighting Marlins also flew out of Djibouti, Masirah, the Seychelles, Diego Garcia, Italy, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Philippines, and Guam. The dedication to excellence and efficiency displayed by the entire squadron earned VP-40 the coveted CNAP Battle Efficiency Award and CNO Aviation Safety Award for 2007.
From March to September of 2008, VP-40 transitioned from a highly successful deployment into a rigorous Inter-Deployment Readiness Cycle (IDRC) with crews surging to FOL Comalapa, El Salvador, just four months into the IDRC during the basic training phase. While flying in support of SOUTHCOM Counter-narcotics operations CARIB SHIELD and CAPER FOCUS, Fighting Marlin aircrews continued to excel, playing a vital role in the interdiction of 44.57 metric tons of narcotics. Over the course of the seven month-long detachment in El Salvador, VP-40 totaled over 2,480 flight hours and completed 52 missions. While executing missions in support of the PELELIU Expeditionary Strike Group as well as the RONALD REAGAN Carrier Strike Group, the Fighting Marlins proved invaluable in the ASW, ASUW, and ISR arenas and were key contributors to the overall successes of the exercises. During RIMPAC '08, VP-40 continued to demonstrate the highest levels of proficiency, including the successful employment of an AGM-65F Maverick against a designated surface target. In each and every exercise the Fighting Marlin team participated, the Squadron provided a significant force multiplier and helped raise the Fleet standard of excellence.
In Feb 2009, VP-40's four crew, two plane detachment flew 24 missions and 16 sorties out of Kadena AB, Japan, in support of the USS JOHN C. STENNIS USWEX 09-1, for a total of 107 flight hours. The Fighting Marlin aircrews contributed to the detachment's successful execution of continuous ASW and ASUW operational support of the Theater Anti Submarine Warfare Commander and the STENNIS Strike Group in the SEVENTH Fleet Area of Responsibility.
March proved to be another productive month as VP-40's performance in the Fleet NATOPS Evaluation Team (FNET) Unit II evaluation was hailed as the "Model for the Fleet" across all aircrew positions. To wrap up another successful IDRC, VP-40's aircrews passed their Operational Readiness Evaluation (ORE) with flying colors.
In May 2009, VP-40 successfully deployed to Iraq and Italy, in support of OIF and Operation ACTIVE ENDEAVOR. Although most primary missions were flown out of Iraq, the Fighting Marlins also flew out of Qatar, Italy, Diego Garcia, Germany, Bulgaria, Spain, and France. The Fighting Marlins received the 2009 Commander, Naval Air Forces, U. S. Pacific Fleet Battle Efficiency Award after their return from deployment. The 2009 "Battle E" was the third consecutive award in as many deployments for the Fighting Marlins. They proved their status as the finest squadron in Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing TEN by executing over 5,087 flight hours and 946 sorties, adding to their record of 41 years and 266,428 mishap-free flight hours.
Upon returning from deployment in December of 2009, the Fighting Marlins embarked upon one of their most challenging and rewarding IDRCs to date. During these eighteen months the squadron would prove a great asset and representative of the Maritime Patrol Community through their direct support of nearly two dozen exercises, CSG workups and pre-operational training events by executing 155 exercise related flights, totaling 938 hours. These events included exercises GOLDEN MERLION, MOJAVE VIPER, DAWN BLITZ, RIMPAC and VALIANT SHIELD, and occurred in a variety of locations, including Hawaii, Guam and San Diego. Squadron aircrews successfully employed two HARPOON missiles and one MAVERICK missile in these varied and difficult training environments. While VP-40 continued supporting the readiness needs of the fleet away from home, the squadron simultaneously executed a demanding schedule in Whidbey Island by successfully completing all twelve Combat Aircrew Readiness Program evolutions on the first try. Squadron personnel demonstrated outstanding preparation and focus in outstanding completion of the squadron ORE, FNET, Aviation Maintenance Inspection and Conventional Weapons and Tactics Inspection. During this home cycle, four members of VP-40 surged to FIFTH Fleet in direct support of OIF, OEF and Operation NEW DAWN. The Fighting Marlins also played a key role in supporting the first ever P-3/P-8 acoustic integration flight, which was a cornerstone of the P-8 Poseidon program development and acquisition. In March 2011, the squadron surged a crew forward in support of ODYSSEY DAWN, where they directed maritime engagements of Libyan combatants.