Patrol Squadron VP-26, a member of Patrol Wing Eleven, is a Maritime Patrol Squadron with a worldwide theater of operations. Mission areas include: Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW), Anti-Surface Warfare (ASU), Command and Control Warfare (C2W), Command, Control, and Communications (CCC), Intelligence (INT), Mine Warfare (MIW), and Mobility (MOB). Although the “TRIDENTS” are homeported at U.S. (Naval Air Station) NAS Jacksonville, Florida, their reputation is known throughout the world. The Tridents have demonstrated success in all of these tasks and in all the services performed, one thing remains constant: Team Trident is at the ready, supporting the mission… Anytime… Anywhere
HISTORY OF PATROL SQUADRON TWO SIX
Patrol Squadron TWO SIX (VP-26), a member of Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing ELEVEN, is a Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Squadron with a worldwide theater of operations. Mission areas include long range anti-submarine warfare, anit-surface warfare and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. The VP-26 "TRIDENTS" are home-ported at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida.
The squadron's history can be traced back to August 1943, when Bombing Squadron 114 was commissioned at Naval Air Station Norfolk, Virginia. The first aircraft assigned to the squadron was the PBY4-1 "Liberator.” Five years after the VB-114 was commissioned, the designation of the squadron was changed to Patrol Squadron TWO SIX.
ASW has been a primary mission area for the squadron since it was commissioned. From June 1944 to February 1945, under the control of Fleet Air Wing SEVEN, VB-114 maintained a detachment of six searchlight equipped “Liberators” at Dunkeswell, England where, as the only Atlantic Fleet night patrol ASW squadron, they protected the Allied Fleet from U-Boat attacks during the Normandy invasion. Following World War II, the squadron was based at Port Lyautey, Morocco, and Key West, Florida, participating in the Berlin Airlift and becoming the first U.S. Navy unit to fly hurricane reconnaissance.
On April 8th, 1950, a VP-26 PB4Y-2 “Privateer”, designated “HB 7,” took off from Wiesbaden Air Base, West Germany, on an intelligence gathering mission. The aircraft was intercepted by four Soviet La-11 fighters while flying over the Baltic Sea, southwest of Liepaja, Latvia. After refusing the “follow me” signals of the fighters, HB 7 was shot down and became the first publicized shootdown of the Cold War. In 1951, the squadron received the P-2 “Neptune” aircraft while stationed at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland. Soon after Naval Air Station Brunswick, Maine was re-commissioned, VP-26 was the first squadron ordered aboard.
During the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, several squadron aircraft were deployed on short notice to Naval Air Station Key West, Florida. These crews arrived one day after President Kennedy's historic speech of 22 October and flew over 1,000 hours in direct support of this crisis. October 1965 marked the beginning of a new era for the Tridents. After fifteen years of faithful service, the P-2 "Neptune" was replaced by the P-3 "Orion," and on January 4th, 1966, Commanding Officer, Commander James H. Cullen, ferried the first fleet P-3B from Burbank, California to Naval Air Station Brunswick, Maine.
In the fall of 1967, Patrol Squadron TWO SIX deployed to Southeast Asia where it averaged 1500 hours per month of combat flight operations from the Philippines and Thailand. In February and April, 1968, two VP-26 P-3B Orion’s were shot down during Operation Market Time, a tragic and painful loss of 24 Tridents. Upon the squadron's return in June 1968, squadron flight crewmembers were awarded the Vietnam Service and Campaign Medal, and several Air Medals. In August 1968, VP-26 was awarded the Fleet Air Wing THREE "E" for Battle Efficiency.
Throughout the 1970's, 1980's and 1990's VP-26 conducted operations throughout the Atlantic, Mediterranean, and Western Pacific theaters. Deployment sites included Sigonella, Rota, Lajes, Keflavik, Kadena, Misawa, Bermuda, Panama, and Puerto Rico.
In August of 1996, Patrol Squadron TWO SIX continued to set records during their tri-site deployment to Keflavik, Puerto Rico, and Panama. The Tridents interdicted more than $1.9 billion in narcotics and had the highest total contact time on "real world" submarines of any U.S. Maritime Patrol Aircraft squadron in the previous four years. They participated in numerous exercises including NATO CJTFEX Northern Lights/Bright Horizon ‘96, KEFLACEX 1-96, and were the first military unit invited to participate in the Norwegian national exercise FLOTEX ‘96. Tridents deployed throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s to Sigonella, Keflavik and Roosevelt Roads continued support of NATO operations, counter-narcotics missions, and other multi-national exercises.
Following the events of September 11, 2001, Patrol Squadron TWO SIX moved to a heightened state of readiness. The squadron supported the War on Terrorism by taking part in various Homeland Defense operations. On April 7, 2003, a crew and maintenance support personnel departed for the Mediterranean to participate in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Over the next several years, the squadron supported missions for Operations Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom, Active Endeavor, Joint Guardian, Deliberate Forge, Caper Focus, and Carib Shield along with exercises Noble Manta, Brilliant Mariner, Shark Hunt, Arabian Shark, Foal Eagle, Anatolian Sun, Shamrock Key and Able Warrior. In February 2007, the Tridents were recognized with the Capt. Arnold J. Isbell trophy for ASW excellence, the Gold Anchor for retention excellence, and in October 2008, the squadron received the Commander Naval Air Force Battle “E” for Battle Efficiency.
In November 2009, Patrol Squadron TWO SIX deployed from Naval Air Station Brunswick, Maine, for the last time, before beginning the transition to Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida. The Tridents were the last squadron of Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing FIVE to leave Brunswick for Jacksonville and their new home with Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing ELEVEN.
Patrol Squadron TWO SIX deployed in December 2011 to the U.S. FIFTH Fleet Area of Responsibility. The squadron flew missions in support of Operation New Dawn, Operation Enduring Freedom, and conducted maritime surveillance operations in the Arabian Gulf, Straits of Hormuz, Gulf of Oman, and the Arabian Sea. The squadron supported the ABRAHAM LINCOLN Carrier Strike Group, flying 57 armed sorties in operations including Nautical Union, Desert Dragon, Noble Prophet, and a detachment to Masirah, Oman.
Patrol Squadron TWO SIX deployed in May 2013 to the SEVENTH Fleet AOR, marking the first integrated active and reserve P-3C deployment. The Tridents executed 245 operational missions and 3,808 flight hours in support of 28 multi-national exercises, 20 U.S. maritime exercises, and 23 detachments to 12 countries, including the first U.S. P-3C detachment to New Zealand since 1984. The Tridents also performed the first dual LSRS mission, the first VQ-LSRS cross cueing operation and the first complete image collection of a priority target in support of Commander, U.S. SEVENTH Fleet. Trident crews executed 184 ASW missions and accumulated 412 ASW contact hours on nine different classes of foreign submarines. Following Super Typhoon Haiyan, the squadron responded with the first U.S. Navy aircraft on scene to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to the Republic of the Philippines in support of Operation Damayan.
In January 2015, Patrol Squadron TWO SIX deployed to Isa Air Base, Bahrain and maintained detachment sites in Incirlik, Turkey and Comalapa, El Salvador. This deployment marked the last deployment of P-3Cs from east coast squadrons. Early in the El Salvador detachment, the crew seized more than 530 kilograms of cocaine worth an estimated $17 million and, ultimately, disrupted $625 million worth of narcotics shipments in cooperation with U.S. Coast Guard and Canadian forces. The Tridents also executed 3,500 overland combat hours across the FIFTH and SIXTH Fleet AORs in support of Operation Inherent Resolve and other multi-national efforts, including the Struggle Against Violent Extremism. Patrol Squadron TWO SIX participated in a ceremony that marked the 65th anniversary of the first US aircraft shot down by the Soviets in the Cold War and was attended by key leaders and over one hundred members of the Latvia military.
In March 2016, Patrol Squadron TWO SIX accepted their first P-8A “Poseidon” and completed their squadron transition to the P-8A in May 2016. In March of 2017, the Tridents deployed seven P-8As and 287 sailors to Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan. During this deployment, VP-26 flew 670 sorties and 4,291 flight hours in support of operations in the SEVENTH Fleet AOR. They executed 17 international detachments to 10 countries including Japan, Philippines, Australia, Singapore, Fiji, South Korea, Sri Lanka, India, Guam, and Thailand, operating forward to improve Theater Security Cooperation. During Phase I of the North Korea Pressure Campaign, VP-26 provided 120.6 hours of direct support to the CARL VINSON Carrier Strike Group in the Sea of Japan. They also gained 243 hours of subsurface contact time, to include five Pacific Fleet Cased submarines, in support of the Theater Anti-Submarine Warfare commander and conducted the first C7F Multi-Static Active Coherent employment and prosecution against a non-cooperative foreign submarine. After both Hurricane Matthew causing devastating damage to Haiti and surrounding areas and catastrophic mudslides in Sri Lanka, VP-26 conducted much needed Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief flights.
In October 2018, Patrol Squadron TWO SIX departed for their second operational deployment with the P-8A to the U.S. SIXTH Fleet AOR. During this deployment, VP-26 flew 655 sorties and 3,695 flight hours in support of operations in the SIXTH Fleet AOR. They executed 15 international detachments to 12 countries spanning two continents including the first ever detachment and exercise in support of AFRICOM with the P-8A, participating in the Marrakech International Air Expo and Grand African Nemo Exercise in Cote D’Ivoire. Another first for VP-26 and the Maritime Patrol community was the first ever air-to-air refueling event during an operational mission in the EUCOM AOR. VP-26 provided critical direct support to the HARRY S. TRUMAN Carrier Strike Group in the Mediterranean Sea and the Strait of Gibraltar. VP-26 also gained 217 hours of subsurface contact time in support of the Theater Anti-Submarine Warfare commander and allied partner exercises.
In 2020, VP-26 deployed to the 4th and 7th Areas of Responsibilities (AOR’s), their first multisite deployment since transitioning to the P-8A aircraft. VP-26 flew over 3,700 hours and conducted over 500 sorties in support of Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW), Reconnaissance Operations, Anti-Surface Warfare (SUW), Humanitarian Assistance, Disaster Relief, Counter-Narcotics, and Freedom of Navigation missions. This was VP-26's first deployment with the Advanced Airborne Sensor (AAS), which they employed in the 7th Fleet AOR with outstanding results.
After arriving in 7th Fleet, the Tridents assumed Commander, Task Group 72.2 (CTG 72.2) from VP-45. Team Trident participated in eight exercises, provided direct support to two Carrier Strike Groups, and tracked three adversary submarines. In 4th Fleet, VP-26’s efforts directly contributed to the seizure of 3.25 billion dollars' worth of narcotics. The squadron also provided humanitarian assistance as part of Task Force 47 (CTF-47) in Guatemala and Honduras, following Hurricanes Eta and Iota, relaying time-critical information to ground personnel for their operations.
Following their 2020 deployment, VP-26 surged to the 6th Fleet AOR in support of CTF-67 ASW tasking. In 2021, the Tridents also completed a shortened home cycle due to COVID-19 precautions and restrictions, resulting in a compressed Fleet Response Training Plan. Despite this, VP-26 executed 499 sorties, flying almost 3,000 flight hours, while supporting 15 exercises, preparing them for their deployment to come.
In October of 2021, VP-26 deployed to the 7th AOR, and again assumed CTG 72.2 from VP-45. VP-26 provided direct support to two Carrier Strike Groups in mission sets including: Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW), Reconnaissance Operations, Anti-Surface Warfare, Search & Rescue (SAR), and again employing the AAS system with great success. During this deployment, a joint effort between VP-26, US Coast Guard assets, the Federal States of Micronesia, and other volunteers searching for the vessel, resulted in VP-26 finding the missing crew at sea and assisting with their subsequent rescue on November 11th, 2021. VP-26 sent aircrew and support personnel on multiple detachments over the course of the deployment, including South Korea, Atsugi, Guam, Malaysia, Australia, Singapore, and the Philippines. These detachments increased inter-operability and improved partnerships with our allies, as well as sharpened the squadron’s proficiency and skills.
VP-26 started a “Trident True” award in the beginning of 2022, as a yearly in-house award to recognize the Sailor that has best demonstrated the qualities that VP-26 holds most valuable to the squadron’s success. The award highlights those with traits showing selflessness, care for others, personal discipline in duties, and determination to accomplish the mission. Future generations will look back on this award and how it aligns with the cultural excellence VP-26 achieves every day, knowing we are “Trident True!”
During its illustrious history, VP-26 has enjoyed success in a wide variety of areas. The Tridents have been recognized with eight Battle "E" Awards, the most recent in 2015, five Capt. Arnold Jay Isbell Trophies, two Arleigh Burke Fleet Trophy Awards, the most recent in 2015, two Golden Wrench awards for maintenance excellence, two Navy Unit Commendations, ten Meritorious Unit Commendations, two Coast Guard Meritorious Unit Commendation, one Coast Guard Unit Commendation, three Navy Expeditionary Medals, two Armed Forces Expeditionary Medals, four Joint Meritorious Unit Awards, and the Gold, Silver, and Bronze Anchors for retention excellence. Other commendations earned by the Tridents include two CNO Letters of Commendation, two SECNAV Letters of Commendation, three Medical Blue "M" Award and the Blue “H” Award for health promotion and wellness. Despite all of these accolades, the Tridents take the most pride in the six Chief of Naval Operations Safety Awards they have earned. VP-26 achieved these successes while adding to its phenomenal safety record, surpassing 58 years and 378,134 hours of mishap-free flying. In the years ahead, the Tridents anticipate more challenging deployments to guard liberty and protect our nation's interests with ever-more exciting and capable tools in the hands of America's finest sons and daughters.