VP-5 Command History
For more than eight decades, the command now recognized as Patrol Squadron 5 (VP-5) has served the cause of freedom. From ocean to ocean, the Sailors and aviators who have comprised this squadron’s roll call have helped build a record of Maritime Patrol Aviation (MPA) warfighting excellence, and extraordinary professional achievement and service.
Commissioned in 1937, and initially designated as VP-17, the Navy’s second oldest VP squadron flew and maintained the PM-1 Seaplane. The first squadron patch depicted a seal balancing a bomb on its nose to represent operations in Alaska, and Pacific Northwest sites. During a dynamic few years, VP-17 transitioned to the PBY-2 in 1938, changed designation to VP-42 in 1939, accepted the amphibious-capable PBY-5A in 1942, and once again changed designation, this time to Bombing Squadron 135 (VB-135) at Whidbey Island, Washington in February 1943. It is during this latest designation that they were nicknamed the “Blind Fox” squadron to reflect the squadron’s method of flying “blind” through heavy weather, and were depicted by a blindfolded fox, riding a flying gas tank, carrying a bomb and cane.
During World War II, the squadron directly contributed to some of the earliest allied victories in the Pacific theater. In August 1943, the Blind Foxes joined sister squadrons in bombing Kiska Harbor during the “Kiska Blitz”, hastening the Japanese abandonment of the island and avoiding a costly amphibious assault. In 1944, the squadron shifted to Attu Island to support photo-reconnaissance efforts aimed at unveiling Japanese activity in the Kurile Islands.
Peacetime brought significant force structure changes, and in 1945, the Navy Department moved the squadron to Edenton, North Carolina, and then to Quonset Point, Rhode Island. Re-designated as VP-135, and then to Medium Patrol Squadron 5, the Blind Foxes relocated again in January 1947 to Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico under operational control of Commander, Fleet Air Wing 11.
In 1948, the squadron transitioned to the Lockheed P2V Neptune, equipped with magnetic anomaly detection equipment capable of detecting large, magnetic objects underwater. The technology to detect submerged submarines through non-acoustic means facilitated a major capability leap in anti-submarine warfare (ASW), and manifested itself not only in squadron operations, but also in the evolution of the squadron name and patch.
Designated as VP-5 in December 1948, the squadron became known as the “Mad Foxes” and changed the patch to depict a fox casually preparing to strike a submarine with a sledgehammer.
The Mad Foxes moved to Jacksonville, Florida in December 1949. Throughout the Cold War, deployments focused on ASW, and anti-surface warfare against Soviet, and Soviet-aligned, forces. VP-5 made its mark on space history in May 1961 when it aided the post-mission seaborne recovery of Cmdr. Alan Shepard, Jr., and later in the recovery of Capt. Virgil Grissom, post Project Mercury.
On January 12, 1962, the squadron endured a terrible tragedy during an ice patrol mission along the Greenland coast, when an aircraft crashed into the Kronborg Glacier and killed Executive Officer Cmdr. Norbert Kozak, and all crew onboard. In 2004, the Navy accomplished a daunting recovery of remains, and memorialized the crew at the crash site, fulfilling a dream of many active duty, and retired MPA Sailors.
VP-5 was one of the first, and most critical units, to support President John F. Kennedy’s quarantine of Cuba in October 1962. Patrols from Jacksonville, Roosevelt Roads, and Guantanamo Bay tracked the lead Soviet ship bound to Cuba in advance of contact with United States Navy (USN) surface forces.
In June 1966, VP-5 transitioned to the Lockheed P-3A Orion, and consistently prosecuted frontline Soviet submarines in the Atlantic and Mediterranean. Squadron crews also participated in Yankee Station patrols off of Vietnam during anti-filtration, and open ocean surveillance flights, as well as night radar coverage of the Gulf of Tonkin, in defense of USN aircraft carriers.
In early 1974, VP-5 transitioned to the P-3C Orion, and in August, a VP-5 crew spotted a disabled Soviet Yankee class submarine. The Mad Foxes remained on-top the stricken submarine for the final hours it remained afloat, and provided critical information to the chain of command during an episode with national security implications.
In February 1986, a VP-5 crew launched following the Challenger disaster, and located the space shuttle nose cone to help direct recovery vessels to the site.
Following the U.S. victory in the Cold War and subsequent dismantling of the Soviet Union, MPA continued to maintain core ASW competencies while serving the nation in other warfare areas. Flying the Orion Update III, the Mad Foxes deployed in early 1991 to Rota, Spain, with extended detachments to Souda Bay, Crete, in direct support of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
In August 1995, VP-5 became the first squadron to cover the entire Atlantic Ocean operational MPA requirement alone. “Tri-sited” between Keflavik, Puerto Rico, and Panama, VP-5 helped usher in an era of multiple detachments within a single deployment.
In February 1997, the squadron supported Keflavik-based ASW and NATO interoperability flights and Caribbean drug interdiction flights, contributing to a U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) year-long total interdiction effort valued at over one billion dollars.
In 1998, VP-5 became the first East Coast deployer with the P-3C Aircraft Improvement Program (AIP) modification. The new warfighting suite enabled MPA fliers to improve their already formidable contributions to national security objectives during the Balkans Wars. The Mad Foxes excelled in missions over Bosnia-Herzegovina, in support of Operation Deliberate Forge, and over Kosovo, in Operation Eagle Eye, bringing to theater the first long flight legs, all-weather, day or night, overland reconnaissance sensor-to-shooter platform.
Deployed to Sigonella, Italy in August 2001, VP-5 relocated multiple crews and aircraft to Souda Bay, Crete, following the September 11th terrorist attacks on New York, and Washington, D.C. Following the commencement of Operation Enduring Freedom, the Mad Foxes provided the backbone of a sweeping theater-wide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operation encompassing 6,600 mishap-free flight hours. Additionally, the squadron supported continued efforts to maintain peace and stability in the Balkans, with flawless performances in Operations Deliberate Forge, and Joint Guardian, in addition to sensitive SOUTHCOM overland reconnaissance operations, Atlantic and Mediterranean armed escort missions, and critical surface surveillance missions in the Red Sea.
On the eve of the Iraq War in 2003, the Mad Foxes left for deployment, this time operating from as many as eight sites simultaneously. Crews also flexed to Operation Iraqi Freedom requirements, completing the first P-3C sortie over northern Iraq, braving high-threat areas to provide critical real-time intelligence to U.S. forces engaged with the enemy.
During its 2006-2007 deployment, the Mad Foxes conducted operations simultaneously in SOUTHCOM, supporting counter-narcotics operations, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, and in U.S. European Command (EUCOM) supporting Operation Active Endeavor, reinitiating support of the Kosovo Force.
In February 2008, VP-5 conducted a surge deployment back to Sigonella, establishing Patrol Squadron Sigonella, a pioneering command encompassing elements from five different organizations.
The squadron conducted a multisite deployment in 2009 to include both SOUTHCOM, and U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) sites. In SOUTHCOM, VP-5 provided combat ready aircrews to execute missions in support of Joint Inter-Agency Task Force South’s counter narcotics mission, and prevented narco-terrorists, and illicit drug traffickers, from delivering over 2.8 billion dollars of illegal narcotics to U.S. shores. This deployment also included a mission to Netal, Brazil, in support of the search and rescue effort for Air France Flight 447. In PACOM, VP-5 orchestrated, and executed, a bi-lateral ASW prosecution with the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force, leading to the earning of the 2009 Captain Arnold Jay Isbell Trophy.
In 2011, VP-5 completed a very demanding, and complex, tri-site deployment. Twelve crews deployed to El Salvador, Sigonella, and Djibouti, Africa, in support of CTG 47.1, CTG 67.1, and CTG 67.5. VP-5 participated in major operations to include Odyssey Dawn, Unified Protector, Caper Focus and Enduring Freedom. The squadron sent detachments to France, Greece, Sicily, and Spain to support other U.S. assets, and multi-nation exercises, including the historic AGM-65F Maverick engagement during Operation Odyssey Dawn. This was the first successful employment of a Maverick against a hostile target in the history of Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Aircraft (MPRA).
In May 2012, the squadron deployed to Kadena Airbase in Okinawa, Japan and brought with it the first five C4ASW modified Orions seen in theater. The Mad Foxes provided timely, and accurate, ISR, Maritime Domain Awareness, and ASW products to high level authorities in PACOM, all while practicing the “hub and two spoke” method of detaching combat aircrews to western Pacific nations to build relationships with allied countries. VP-5 completed 30 detachments to countries including Australia, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Palau, Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand. While deployed, the squadron participated in a variety of major exercises and operations including Operation Island Chief, Operation Enduring Freedom - Philippines, Exercise Valiant Shield, Exercise Keen Sword, and Operation Kuru Kuru.
After 39 years, VP-5 retired the P-3C Orion and transitioned to the P-8A Poseidon. Following Safe-for-Flight certification, the “Mad Foxes” independently launched the P-8A Poseidon for the first time on Aug. 6, 2013. In July 2014, VP-5 began its inaugural deployment of the P-8A to Okinawa, Japan. The Mad Foxes executed over 20 detachments to countries and territories including Australia, Malaysia, Diego Garcia, Bangladesh, Guam, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and the Republic of Korea.
The P-8A proved its worth on station with its advanced warfighting capabilities and long-range maritime patrol ability. In March 2016, VP-5 embarked on their first dual-site deployment in the P-8A in support of 5th and 7th Fleet. During those six months, the Mad Foxes traveled to 13 countries in Asia, and the South Pacific, to include Australia, Brunei, Fiji, Thailand and Singapore. They achieved a 99 percent mission completion rate while executing 5,016.5 flight hours in some of the most demanding conditions around the world.
During the 2017 home cycle, VP-5 was the first P-8A squadron to earn the Battle Effectiveness (Battle “E”) award as a result of their efforts from the previous deployment. (The Battle “E” is an annual award recognizing a command for its display of exceptional performance, efficiency, and mission readiness throughout the year).
In September 2017, the ‘Mad Foxes’ departed on another dual-site deployment. This was the first time a P-8A had operated out of El Salvador, in 4th Fleet. The successful operations included numerous counter-narcotics missions, resulting in the seizure or disruption of over 33,000 kilograms of illegal narcotics, with a street value of over $2 billion. While in 6th Fleet, the ‘Mad Foxes’ detached to 11 different nations across Europe, and the Middle East, from their primary base of operations in Sigonella.
In April 2019, the squadron once again deployed to Kadena Airbase in Okinawa, Japan where the Mad Foxes operated with 11 partner nations, demonstrating increased interoperability in ASW, ASUW, SAR and ISR missions during the execution of over 3,400 operational hours. Additionally, VP-5 executed the operational introduction of the Advanced Airborne Sensor, a multifunction radar installed on the P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft. A highlight of the deployment came when the Mad Foxes executed a successful SAR operation, searching for an overdue fishing vessel containing four adults and three children out of Guam, with all seven occupants being recovered, and expected to make a full recovery.
In 2019, VP-5 also surpassed 219,341 hours and 41 years, of Class A mishap-free flight operations, with zero ground MISHAPS.
The P-8A enables excellence on station while performing the essential tasks VP-5 has excelled at for over 83 years. Currently, the Mad Foxes continue to move forward as one of the premier MPRA aviation squadrons, while embodying their motto ‘No Fox Like a Mad Fox!’