Commander, Airborne Command Control and Logistics Wing (COMACCLW) established 1 October 2005. Formerly known as, Airborne Early Warning Wing, U.S. Pacific Fleet (COMAEWWINGPAC) was originally established in April 1967 as Commander Airborne Early Warning Wing-11, based at Naval Air Station North Island. Upon moving to Naval Air Station Miramar in July 1973, it was combined with Commander Fleet Air Miramar to form Commander Fighter Airborne Early Warning Wing, U.S. Pacific Fleet (COMFITAEWWINGPAC), bringing together the Navy's premiere anti-air warfare team. In August 1993 COMFITAEWWINGPAC was disestablished, at which time, COMAEWWINGPAC was established. In July 1998, COMAEWWINGPAC moved from Marine Corps Air Station Miramar to Naval Air Station Point Mugu.
Airborne Early Warning was born shortly after the Battle of Midway. Lieutenant Akers was detached from USS HORNET and ordered to the Bureau of Aeronautics as Director of Electronics. In Washington , there was the Office of Scientific Research and Development established by a directive from the President. It was their practice at this early period of the war to quiz newly arrived officers from the battle area that had certain expertise.
Lieutenant Akers promptly found himself before an august group, and one of the first questions asked of him was "What does the Navy need most right now?" His answer came easy, and without hesitation he replied "Surface Search Radar out to two hundred miles." At the Battle of Midway there were so many planes searching for the Japanese fleet that there were too few planes to mount an effective attack. Even so, the fleet did succeed in sinking four enemy carriers.
Radar was an emerging technology at the beginning of World War II. As early as 1942, primitive radar/radio link-up experiments had been conducted at MIT. In 1943 MIT's Radiation Laboratory began work on a crash program to develop an operable airborne early warning radar for immediate deployment to the Pacific. Code named "Cadillac", it would be eclipsed in priority, size and expense only by the Manhattan Project. The result was the APS-20 radar, first flown in an XTBM-3(W) Avenger on 5 August 1944. Responding to the system's promise, and to the increasing Kamikaze threat, the Navy ordered co-production of the APS-20 while it was still in development. During the summer of 1945, Fleet Airborne Electronics Training Unit, Pacific Fleet (FAETUPAC) began training the first AEW Avenger aircrews in San Diego . Three years later, CNO directed formation of a VAW squadron on each coast. On 6 July 1948, Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron One (VAW-1) was commissioned, providing dets of 18 officers, 55 enlisted and 3-4 Avengers. Pacific Fleet AEW had been born.
VAW-1 became VC-11 in September 1948. A year later they began transitioning to the larger, more powerful AD-3W "Guppy". The AD-5W added a third operator beside the pilot and more electronic gear to the same APS-20 radar. During the Korean War, dets were used primarily for anti-submarine patrols, as well as weather recce, gunfire spotting, pathfinding and courier duties; Guppy crews didn't begin concentrating on airborne early warning until 1952, when retaliatory raids against the fleet by the North Koreans were considered a threat. On 2 July 1952, VC-11 was redesignated VAW-11. Developmental work on the APS-20 and follow-on radars continued as VAW dets began deploying on every carrier from the Mediterranean to the South China Sea .
In September 1959 Grumman rolled out the WF-2 Tracer. The "Willie Fudd" or "Stoof with a Roof" mounted above the fuselage a huge airfoil-shaped dome that protected the 17 x 5 ft parabolic dish antennae. This APS-82 proved to be a substantial improvement over the APS-20: ground stabilization, target height determination, turn stabilization and improved communications were all incorporated. The WF (later E-1B) served as an AEW platform from attack carriers (CVA) and as an anti-submarine platform from the ASW carriers (CVS). By 1967, after 18 years at NAS North Island , VAW-11 occupied over 5 hangars with their 12 detachments, shore component and complement of over 2200 officers and men, including the Naval Aviation Observers, the precursor to today's Naval Flight Officer.
The advent of the computer age and anti-ship missiles launched by high-speed jet platforms mandated an evolutionary change of platforms. The E-2A Hawkeye featured turboprop engines, ATDS, and a 24 ft rotodome containing antennas for the APS-96 radar and IFF. Debuting with VAW-11 in 1965 aboard the USS KITTY HAWK (CVA-63), the early E-2A's offered a glimpse of great things to come, when they worked. Together, however, the E-2 and E-1 provided continuous AEW over the Tonkin Gulf during the Vietnam War.
In April 1967, VAW-11 was split into five fleet squadrons and the Fleet Replacement Training Squadron RVAW-110 (VAW-117 was later added in 1975). The community moved to NAS Miramar in 1973, as development work continued on the next big step in AEW: The E-2C Hawkeye, featuring the APS-120 radar, much improved automation and reliability, and a totally new passive detection system, could now look overland. The E-2 had become an offensive weapon. "Willie Fudds", however, didn't complete their operational deployments until 1976; and E-2B's until 1986.
The E-2C Hawkeye proved to be an extremely reliable and versatile aircraft. After undergoing significant radar and systems upgrades, the airframe was ready for another step. The Group I Hawkeye provided a transitional airframe with more powerful T56-427 engines to carry the increasing aircraft weight. The Group II Hawkeye was introduced in 1992 with revolutionary improvements in tracking, display, and detection married to the new JTIDS system and satellite communications. The "Hawkeye 2000" will be the future of AEW, as it continues to expand its role as the critical node in battlespace management, power protection, amphibious warfare, and fleet defense.
The AEW Excellence Award has been renamed the "Rear Admiral Frank Akers Award" in his honor.
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