The World Famous "Wallbangers" of Carrier Airborne Command and Control Squadron One One Seven (VAW-117) are home ported in NBVC Point Mugu, California. The Wallbangers fly the Navy's only carrier-based command and control platform, the E-2C Hawkeye.
The Hawkeye is designed for airborne early warning. It is a 5-seat, twin-turboprop, all-weather aircraft. From higher altitudes, the Hawkeye looks beyond the horizon and over obstacles to deny the enemy their most valuable asset: surprise. This allows the air defense system at least 30 minutes of warning providing time to detect, classify the threat, and deploy fighter aircraft or surface missiles for optimum effect. Equipped with state-of-the-art systems, the Hawkeye provides fully automatic detection and tracking over land and water. Additionally, it supplies simultaneous surveillance of air and surface traffic. Though the Hawkeye can operate independently, it normally functions as an extension of existing air defense systems. All data obtained aboard the plane can be relayed to surface command posts for display and decision-making.
The Wallbangers were established at NAS North Island, CA on 01 July 1974, as part of Fighter Early Warning Wing, U.S. Pacific Fleet. The squadron received its first E-2B aircraft in October 1974 and a year later they deployed to the Mediterranean Sea onboard the USS INDEPENDENCE (CV-62). The squadron made its first Western Pacific (WESTPAC) deployment with Carrier Air Wing TWO onboard the USS RANGER (CV-61) in February 1979.
Over the past 30 years, the Wallbangers have constantly found themselves at the tip of the spear. During the 1988 WESTPAC onboard the USS ENTERPRISE, VAW-117 played a key role in Operation PRAYING MANTIS during which an Iranian ship was destroyed. In addition, the Wallbangers excelled in providing command and control during the attacks on oil platforms and small ships.
Years later, the Wallbangers were still maintaining their rapid operational pace. The onset of Operation DESERT SHIELD/DESERT STORM led to the most accelerated turn around training cycle ever. Onboard the USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN's maiden WESTPAC Voyage in May of 1991, VAW-117 assisted in the evacuation from the Philippines after the eruption of Mount Pinatubo during "Operation FIERY VIGIL." The Wallbangers were awarded the Joint Meritorious Unit Award for their efforts in assisting in the evacuation.
The Wallbangers have made several advancements in the past few years. In 1999, they were selected to provide operational testing for the Navy's newest AEW upgrade, the MCU/ACIS (Mission Computer Upgrade/ Advance Computer Information System). This new computer system in the E-2 has given them a distinct advantage in their command and control capabilities. In July 2001, the Wallbangers were the first squadron to deploy with the new MCU/ACIS system. WESTPAC 2001-02 onboard the USS CARL VINSON (CVN-70) proved to be a rewarding deployment for the Wallbangers.
After the terrorist bombings of Sept. 11th, 2001, the Wallbangers and CARRIER AIR WING 11 were among the first aircraft to lead in the strikes on Afghanistan as part of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM. The Wallbangers flew an unprecedented amount of combat sorties in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM. The extensive radar and communication equipment on board the E-2C Hawkeye allowed the Wallbangers to become a vital part of our nation's anti-terrorist operations. The Wallbangers continuously provided battle space management over Pakistan and southern Afghanistan, ensuring the safety of all airborne assets and deconfliction with commercial airways. They served as an information-clearing house, providing a communications relay between command authorities on the ground tactical aircraft airborne. What began as an operation that consisted mainly of carrier-based naval air assets evolved into a multi-service and multi-faceted, combined operation. The Wallbangers were crucial in ensuring the smooth integration of aircraft from Navy, Air Force, and allied nations.
The Bangers continued to aggressively spearhead the Hawkeye community with ongoing modifications and upgrades. They were the first fleet squadron to receive the Hawkeye 2000 aircraft. The Hawkeye 2000 also features the Cooperative Engagement Capability system (CEC). CEC is the Navy's most comprehensive sensor fusion system and drastically improves the Carrier Strike Group's situational awareness and self-defense capabilities. The Hawkeye 2000's advanced features have allowed the Wallbangers to give warfare commanders the most complete, up-to-the-minute picture possible of theater operations.
The Wallbangers recently received four Hawkeye 2000 aircraft with the Communications Navigation Surveillance and Advanced Traffic Management upgrade. This new upgrade incorporates a modern glass cockpit, replacing 1950's era steam gauges. As part of the navigation upgrade, a system combining a Global Positioning System and an inertial navigation system has been integrated to provide accurate positioning and velocity, allowing flight crews to perform precise GPS landing approaches.
VAW-117 is comprised of 150 officers and enlisted personnel hailing from all corners of the United States. Their diverse backgrounds have helped forge an aggressive war fighting squadron renowned for its operational excellence and innovation. In 2016, VAW-117 was awarded the Battle Efficiency Award for exhibiting quality and tenacity in their pursuit of combat readiness and battle efficiency. Excellence every day is the Banger standard and will continue in the future.