Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 77
(VAW-77) "Nightwolves" was an aviation unit of the United States
Navy Reserve based at Naval Air Station / Joint Reserve Base New Orleans from
1995 to 2013. It comprised the U.S. Navy's only fully dedicated counter-narcotics
VAW-77's beginnings go back to 1995, when the U.S. Congress created the
reserve squadron as a result of the United States escalating war on illegal
drug trafficking. VAW-77 received four specially modified E-2C Hawkeye
airborne early warning aircraft optimized for counter-drug missions. As part
of the Navy's post-Cold War role, VAW-77 flight crews patrolled the waters of
the Caribbean in joint missions with the United States Coast Guard and other
drug enforcement agencies in search of illegal aircraft and ships.
The officers and enlisted members of VAW-77 were a mix of Selected Reservists
and active Full Time Support (FTS) personnel. Because the squadron was a
component of the Naval Reserve, a significant number of its men and women were
Selected Reservists. They participated in the squadron's mission on a
part-time basis because of their civilian commitments. The aircraft were
serviced and maintained by Northrop Grumman civilian contractors who also
deployed with the squadron.
On 18 November 1995 Carrier Early Airborne Warning Squadron 77 (VAW-77) was
commissioned, as a Reserve Squadron serving with the US Coast Guard and other
Federal Agencies to fight the war on drugs, providing sophisticated air
surveillance on traffic off the southern coast of the US. VAW-77 "Night
Wolves" work in tandem with Coast Guard and other federal law
enforcement agencies to combine and coordinate operations of
counter-narcotics forces. The E-2C Hawkeye squadron deploys four to five times
a year to bases near known drug trafficking routes to help identify suspected
drug smugglers. The squadron spends approximately four to five months per
year forward deployed to bases near illegal drug traffic lanes.
Since commissioning, the Nightwolves have completed a number of sixty-day
counter-drug deployments to the Caribbean Theater. VAW-77 deployed primarily
to Naval Station Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico until the Naval Station ceased
active operations in October, 2003 prior to its inactivation on March 31,
2004. VAW-77 continues to operate out of Howard AFB, Panama; Patrick AFB,
Florida; Comalapa Air Force Base, El Salvador; Coast Guard Air Station
Borinquen, Aguadilla, Puerto Rico; Manta Air Force Base located at the Eloy
Alfaro International Airport in Manta, Ecuador; and Hato International
Airport, Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles. Squadron aircraft have been involved
in over 120 high profile arrests and seizures of drug carrying container
ships, high-speed watercraft, and light civilian aircraft. In fact, the mere
presence of the Nightwolves in the Caribbean has caused drug traffickers to
change their tactics in order to avoid detection by VAW-77 aircraft.
In August 2008, VAW-77 moved to its new home of Naval Air Station / Joint
Reserve Base (NAS/JRB) New Orleans, LA in response to BRAC's decision to
close Naval Air Station Atlanta.
Because of spending cuts throughout the Department of Defense, the unit was
recommended for decommission by the Secretary of the Navy. In February 2013,
the "Nightwolves" were formally disbanded, and its crew &
equipment were in the process of being redistributed throughout other naval
squadrons. VAW-77 was disestablished on 9 March 2013. The squadron's six
aircraft were transferred to other carrier airborne warning squadrons and the
squadron members were transfer to various other Commander Naval Air Force
Reserve (CNAFR) squadrons.
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NEW ORLEANS (NNS) -- The Nightwolves of
Carrier Airborne Warning Squadron (VAW) 77 will be formally disestablished
during a ceremony aboard Naval Air Station/Joint Reserve Base New Orleans,
The Nightwolves, a reserve E-2 squadron based at NAS/JRB New Orleans, have
been responsible for various missions within the strategic reserve including
counter-narcotics and human trafficking interdiction, disaster response and
missile exercise support.
VAW-77 consists of six E-2C Hawkeye aircraft and 112 personnel (72 Full Time
Support and 40 Selected Reservists). The squadron's beginnings go back to
1995, when the U.S. Congress created the reserve squadron as a result of the
United States' escalating war on illegal drug trafficking.
VAW-77 received four specially modified E-2C Hawkeye airborne early warning
aircraft optimized for counter-drug missions. As part of the Navy's post-Cold
War role, VAW-77 flight crews patrolled the waters of the Caribbean in joint
missions with the U.S. Coast Guard and other drug enforcement agencies in
search of illegal aircraft and ships.
Due to budgetary constraints, the Navy decided to decommission VAW-77 in
fiscal year 13. While this choice was difficult, it was within the limits of
the resources available to the Navy. There will always be the need to balance
direct warfighting capability against missions like those assigned to VAW-77.
"Their last flight was Jan. 29," said Lt. Cmdr. Erin Wreski,
program manager for Commander Naval Air Force Reserve's (CNAFR) Tactical
Support Wing. "Their disestablishment ceremony will be March 9, and the
squadron officially closes its doors March 31.
"The squadron's six aircraft will be transferred to other carrier
airborne warning squadrons," Wreski said. "And the squadron members
will transfer to various other CNAFR squadrons around the country."