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US Navy - Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 33 (TACELRON 33)
VAQ-33 'Firebirds'
 
vaq-33 firebirds insignia crest patch badge tactical electronic warfare squadron us navy 03x vaq-33 firebirds tactical electronic warfare squadron tacelron us navy nas oceana virginia frs
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STATUS:   established as VC-33 on May 31, 1949
VC-33 redesignated VA(AW)-33 on July 2, 1956
VA(AW)-33 redesignated VAW-33 on June 30, 1959
VAW-33 redesignated VAQ-33 on February 1, 1968
VAQ-33 disestablished on October 1, 1993
 AIRCRAFT:   Douglas EA-1F Skyraider
Lockheed EC-121K Warning Star
Lockheed EP-3J Orion
Douglas ERA-3B Skywarrior
Douglas TA-3B Skywarrior
Douglas EA-4F Skyhawk
Ling-Temco-Vought TA-7Z Corsair II

McDonnell Douglas EF-4B Phantom II
McDonnell Douglas EF-4J Phantom II
Grumman EA-6A Intruder
 DEPLOYMENTS:   April 1968 - January 1969 with CVW-7 aboard USS Independence (CVA 62) (detachment)
June 1968 - February 1969 with CVW-10 aboard USS Intrepid (CVS 11) (detachment)
February 1969 - December 1969 with CVW-1 aboard USS John F. Kennedy (CVA 67) (detachment)

1970-1993 training / aggressor unit - no combat deployments
 
images

vaq-33 firebirds tactical electronic warfare squadron tacelron us navy ep-3j orion 16
EP-3J Orion (VAQ-33) - circa 1992

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ERA-3B Skywarrior (VAQ-33) at NAS Oceana, Virginia - March 1990

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ERA-3B Skywarrior (VAQ-33) at NAS Oceana, Virginia - March 1990

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TA-3B Skywarrior (VAQ-33) aboard USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) - 1983

vaq-33 firebirds tactical electronic warfare squadron tacelron us navy ta-3b skywarrior 08
TA-3B Skywarrior (VAQ-33) landing aboard USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) - 1983

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EA-4F Skyhawk (VAQ-33) with a KA-3B Skywarrior (VAQ-34) - off California 1983

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Lockheed NC-121K Willy Victor (VAQ-33) on her way to Davis-Monthan AFB for retirement - 1982

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ERA-3B Skywarrior (VAQ-33) refuels a TA-4J Skyhawk from VC-12 - 1980

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EA-3B Skywarrior (VAQ-33) refuels a TA-4J Skyhawk from VC-12 - 1980

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EA-3B Skywarrior (VAQ-33) refuels TA-4J Skyhawks - 1980

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ERA-3B Skywarrior (VAQ-33) flies with a TA-4J Skyhawk from VC-1 - May 1978

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ERA-3B Skywarrior (VAQ-33) flies with a TA-4J Skyhawk from VC-1 - April 1978

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EA-4F Skyhawk (VAQ-33) - April 1973

vaq-33 firebirds tactical electronic warfare squadron tacelron us navy nc-121k warning star ea-4f skyhawk f-4b phantom ii 17
Lockheed NC-121K Warning Star (VAQ-33) in flight with an EA-4F Skyhawk and F-4B Phantom II - April 1973

vaq-33 firebirds tactical electronic warfare squadron tacelron us navy ea-1f skyraider 14
EA-1F Skyraider (VAQ-33) approaches USS Independence (CVA 62) - circa 1968
 
 
VAQ-33, nicknamed the Firebirds, was a Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron of the US Navy, serving for 44 years (1949-1993) under various designations and with a constantly-evolving group of aircraft. It was designated VAQ-33 in 1968, at which time it operated the piston-powered EA-1F Skyraider, or Spad. The squadron had the distinctions of being the last Navy unit to operate the Skyraider, and of making its last carrier deployment, in 1969. The retirement of the Spad marked the beginning of the squadron's decades-long role as a pioneering electronic aggressor squadron. That role ended with electronic aggressor mission's being transferred to the Navy Reserve and the squadron's disestablishment at NAS Key West on 1 October 1993.

History:
The squadron was established in 1949 as Composite Squadron VC-33 at NAS Norfolk. It flew the TBM-3E/N/Q Avenger and a few SNB-5 Texans. Its mission was antisubmarine warfare (ASW). It moved to NAS Atlantic City in 1950, where its mission changed to night attack. It sent three detachments to the Korean War aboard carriers, where it distinguished itself in night attack and ECM missions.

In 1952, it adopted the nickname Nighthawks, and in 1956 was redesignated as an All-Weather Attack Squadron VA(AW)-33. In 1958, the squadron moved to NAS Quonset Point, and was soon redesignated Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron VAW-33. In 1961, it began providing ASW detachments to antisubmarine carriers in the Atlantic Fleet. In 1966, a VAW-33 detachment supported the recovery of the Gemini IX spacecraft. From 1967-1968, VAW-33 provided carrier-based ECM services in the Vietnam War zone.

Returning to NAS Norfolk in 1970, the squadron, now designated VAQ-33, adopted the Firebirds nickname, and came under operational control of the Fleet Electronic Warfare Support Group. Its new mission was to simulate electronic threats to units of the fleet. Its standard complement of aircraft soon became four ERA-3B Skywarriors, nicknamed Whales, four EA-4F Skyhawks, and one NC-121K Warning Star. Its detachments quickly became requested standard features of exercises in the fleet, simulating missiles and jamming radars from Norway to Hawaii. In 1976, the squadron began operating EF-4B and EF-4J Phantom IIs. In 1977, the Firebirds added a training version of the Whale and became the A-3 Skywarrior fleet replacement squadron (FRS), providing flight training, maintenance training, and carrier qualification services to A-3 crews.

The squadron moved to NAS Oceana in 1978, soon acquiring four ex-Marine Corps EA-6A Intruders. In 1980, the squadron made its final move, to NAS Key West. A P-3A Orion replaced their NC-121K, which had become the last "Connie" in the Navy.

During its last dozen years, VAQ-33 continued a high tempo of operations supporting the fleet. It was one of the few U.S. Navy Squadrons to utilize 'autonomous maintenance units’ or ‘AMU’s. The AMU’s performed as specific type squadrons within the main squadron. AMU-1 performed maintenance on the A-3 Sky Warriors (known as ‘Whales’). Between 1988 and until the retirement of the Whale, VAQ-33 became a clearing house for some A-3 aircraft to be evaluated prior to dispensation to Davis Mothan AFB or Museum. AMU-2 performed maintenance on the EA-6A and EA-6A Recap Electric Intruders. AMU-3 would perform maintenance on A-1 Sky Raiders, to be replaced by A-4 Sky Hawks, which was replaced by TA-7C and TA-7Z Corsair II aircraft. The TA-7Z Corsair II was an in-house avionics and airframe modification to support the squadrons electronic warfare mission, being capable of carrying a suite of electronic warfare pods. AMU-4 performed maintenance on P-3 Orion aircraft of several variants from P-3 (airframe #3) to P-3B which would go through Depot Level maintenance to convert it to the EP-3J being specifically made to support the squadrons mission. AMU-5 performed maintenance on F-4 Phantom II aircraft. AMU-6 performed intermediate level maintenance on the electronic warfare pods the aircraft carried. The EA-6A became its only jet aircraft, while it retained three turboprop Orions. The squadron's success in its mission was shown by the establishment in 1983 of VAQ-34 at NAS Point Mugu and in 1991 of VAQ-35 at NAS Whidbey Island. Its role as an A-3 FRS ended with the retirement of the Whale in 1991. The electronic aggressor mission was eventually transferred to the Navy Reserve, and VAQ-33 wound down operations during 1993. In keeping with its "last to fly this airplane" tradition, its EA-6As were the last of their kind retired from service. The squadron was disestablished on 1 October 1993.

source: wikipedia

vaq-33 firebirds tactical electronic warfare squadron us navy history
 
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