2011 Year in Review

An MH-53E Sea Dragon with HM-14, embarked aboard USS Tortuga (LSD 46), prepares to land at a Japan Self-Defense Force airfield on 31 March 2011 in support of Operation Tomodachi.

U.S. Naval Aviation continued its worldwide presence, acting as an international force for good in 2011. Naval Aviation, in concert with NATO and coalition allies, confronted the forces of Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi under Operation Odyssey Dawn. Naval air crews and ships also participated in Operation Tomodachi, a disaster relief and humanitarian aid effort following the 11 March 2011 earthquake and tsunami off the northeast Pacific coast of Honshu, Japan. Naval helicopter detachments continued to provide support to distressed private and merchant vessels from pirate attacks in the Arabian and the Horn of Africa.
Naval aircraft made headlines and achieved milestones, as well. The E-2D Advanced Hawkeye made its first carrier launch and landing, the EA-18G Growler engaged in its first combat operations, the P-8 Poseidon touched down for the first time at NAS Jacksonville, and both Joint Strike Fighter variants continued to make headway toward eventual fleet introduction. Naval Aviation also bid farewell to the UC-12B Huron and the Marine Corps’ first EA-6B Prowler, while welcoming USS Green Bay (LPD 20) and USS Anchorage (LPD 23) to the fleet.
The future of Naval Aviation continued to take form with milestone achievements from unmanned aerial vehicles as the X-47B Unmanned Combat Aircraft System Demonstrator successfully completed its historic first flight. In other firsts, the initial components of the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) were delivered to Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) to await installation.
The following chronology captures the some of the more important highlights, milestones, and mishaps of Naval Aviation in 2011.

January
8 A Navy rescue helicopter retrieved an injured hiker after he sustained head and neck injuries from a falling boulder on Guam. Through the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Guam, fire and rescue requested assistance from HSC-25. The helicopter was able to locate the hiker quickly for transport to the U.S. naval hospital for treatment.
13 USS Enterprise (CVN 65) deployed to the Middle East under new skipper Capt. Dee Mewbourne. The ships and embarked squadrons from the Enterprise Carrier Strike Group (CSG) entered the U.S. 6th Fleet area of responsibility (AOR) on 20 January 2011.
26 Under Secretary of the Navy Robert Work announced that CVW-14 would be disestablished.

February
1 The E-2D Advanced Hawkeye, the Navy’s newest airborne early warning and control aircraft, made its first carrier launch aboard USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) and its first carrier landing on 3 February.
3 USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) completed its final flights in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
4 The X-47B unmanned combat aircraft system demonstrator successfully completed its historic first flight at Edwards AFB, Calif.
22 Green Bay departed San Diego for the Western Pacific on its maiden deployment.

March
1 USS Makin Island (LHD 8) became the first West Coast ship to conduct flight deck operations with the MV-22 Osprey.
1 USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) and USS Ponce (LPD 15) entered the Suez Canal en route to the Mediterranean, as Western nations exerted diplomatic and military pressure on Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi to step down.
14 USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) and other ships were repositioned off the east coast of Japan after the detection of a low-level radiation plume from the Fukushima nuclear power plant in the aftermath of the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami.
16 VP-4 arrived at Misawa, Japan, to assist with Operation Tomodachi disaster relief efforts. VP-4 departed Misawa on 30 March.
18 Marine Transport Squadron Belle Chase, La., retired the UC-12B Huron. The Huron has logged nearly 25,000 flight hours since its introduction in 1980.
20 Ships of the Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and embarked Marines of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) arrived off the coast of Honshu to provide humanitarian assistance in support of Operation Tomodachi.
21 Marines from the 26th MEU, along with MV-22 Ospreys and CH-53 Super Stallion helicopters, conducted a tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel mission after a U.S. Air Force F-15E crashed east of Benghazi, Libya. The Osprey was able to locate the pilot and return him to Kearsarge.
21 USS George Washington (CVN 73) left the Japanese port of Yokosuka as a precautionary measure because of high levels of radiation. George Washington returned to Yokosuka on 20 April, after completing repairs and scheduled upgrades following its work as part of Operation Tomodachi.
24 A Philippine-flagged merchant vessel and its 20 crew members survived a run-in with pirates in the Arabian Sea after U.S. Navy helicopters helped scare off the unwanted interlopers. Enterprise and USS Leyte Gulf (CG 55) responded to a distress call from M/V Falcon Trader II, which reported that suspected pirates in a small skiff were attempting to board the vessel. An SH-60F with the HS-11 Dragonslayers from Enterprise and an SH-60B with the HSL-48 Vipers from Leyte Gulf investigated the situation. The HS-11 helicopter fired warning shots, and two pirates were seen jumping off the ship’s bow onto the skiff. The helicopter pursued them to the suspected mother ship, when the pirates fired back with small-arms fire without causing any damage or casualties.
26 USS Arlington (LPD 24), the second of three ships built in honor of 9/11 victims and their families, was christened at the Huntington Ingalls shipyard in Pascagoula, Miss.
28 A P-3 Orion from VP-5 marked a first in the aircraft’s 49-year history when it fired an AGM-65F Maverick missile on a hostile Libyan vessel during Operation Odyssey Dawn.
29 A Marine Corps CH-53D Sea Stallion from HMH-363 crashed off the coast of Hawaii, killing one crewman and injuring three others.
29 A Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier deployed with the 13th MEU aboard USS Boxer (LHD 4) crashed into the water during takeoff in the Arabian Sea. An MH-60S helicopter from HSC-23 recovered the pilot and returned him to the ship.
30 The engine of an F/A-18C Hornet (BuNo 165190), assigned to VMFAT-101, caught fire and exploded aboard USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) injuring 10 Sailors.
30 NAS JRB Willow Grove was disestablished.
31 After 32 years of service, USS Nassau (LHA 4) was decommissioned at NS Norfolk, Va.
31 The EA-18G Growler participated in its first combat missions as part of Operation Odyssey Dawn in late March.

An F/A-18F Super Hornet with the VFA-11 Red Rippers makes the 400,000th arrested landing aboard USS Enterprise (CVN 65) on 24 May 2011. (Photo by MC3 Alex R. Forster)

April
4 The Ronald Reagan CSG departed the disaster relief mission in Japan.
4 The P-8A Poseidon made its first landing at NAS Jacksonville, Fla., during the Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Force Centennial of Naval Aviation Symposium.
6 The USCGC Assateague (WPB 1337) and helicopters from HSC-25 responded to a mayday call approximately 65 miles off the northern tip of Saipan to rescue the crew of a fishing vessel. No injuries were reported.
6 Two Navy officers from VFA-122 at NAS Lemoore, Calif., died when their F/A-18F Super Hornet crashed outside the base.
7 HSC-85 welcomed the arrival of their first HH-60H Seahawk helicopter as the command began its transition to special operations mission support.
8 The Marine Corps completed an aviation first by flying MV-22B Ospreys on the aircraft’s longest movement to date. Six Ospreys with VMM-266 returned to the 26th MEU after a trek from Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, to Souda Bay, Greece.
14 The engine of an F/A-18C Hornet from VFA-113 caught fire aboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) in the Arabian Sea. The fire was extinguished and the pilot escaped unharmed.
15 The last CH-53 helicopters from the HMX-1 Big Irons was reassigned to the operating forces.
29 An A-3 Skywarrior landed at NAS Whidbey Island, Wash., to become a static display. The aircraft originally came to Whidbey Island in 1956 and was the station’s first permanently assigned jet bomber.
29 Lockheed Martin test pilot David “Doc” Nelson flew the F-35B structural loads test aircraft BF-3 on its first short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) flight followed by its first vertical landing at NAS Patuxent River, Md. U.S. Marine Corps test pilot Col. Fred “Tinman” Schenk completed the first vertical landing in mission systems test aircraft BF-4 on 27 April 2011.

May
2 Osama bin Laden was buried at sea aboard Carl Vinson.
9 NAVAIR’s Aircraft Launch and Recovery Equipment program delivered the first set of EMALS components to Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78).
11 The George H.W. Bush CSG departed NS Norfolk to the Mediterranean Sea and Persian Gulf region for its maiden deployment.
14 The Navy christened Anchorage during a ceremony at Huntington Ingalls Avondale Shipyard in Avondale, La.
14 Sailors and Marines from VMU-2 returned home to MCAS Cherry Point, N.C., from a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan.
24 An F/A-18F Super Hornet from the VFA-11 Red Rippers became the 400,000th aircraft to land on the flight deck of Enterprise.
26 VX-30 delivered the final S-3B Viking aircraft to undergo specialized depot-level restoration at FRC Southeast, Fla.
29 Secretary of the Navy Ray Maybus announced that the Navy’s next Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier will be named John F. Kennedy (CVN 79).
31 NAS Brunswick, Maine, held its disestablishment ceremony, ending 68 years of service.

June
1 NAS Pensacola, Fla., received a Beechcraft T-6A Texan, the 27th and last aircraft to be repainted in a historic scheme as part of the Centennial of Naval Aviation Heritage Paint Project.
10 The Marine Corps’ first EA-6B Prowler (BuNo 160432), received into the service nearly 35 years ago, made its final flight during a ceremony at MCAS Cherry Point.
15 A T-45 Goshawk from VT-2 at NAS Kingsville, Texas, crashed, with the pilot sustaining only minor injuries.
17 The VFA-195 Dambusters returned to George Washington after completing the transition from the F/A-18C Hornet to the F/A-18E Super Hornet.
30 VMU-3 formed a new detachment at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, and became operational with the launch of an RQ-7B Shadow in support of 2d Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment.
30 USS Dubuque (LPD 8) was decommissioned by the Navy at NB San Diego.
In late June, the Navy’s MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned aircraft deployed for the first time to Southwest Asia, where the helicopter conducted missions over the Arabian Sea and in Afghanistan.

July
2 A team from the Navy Unmanned Combat Air System program office accomplished the first carrier touchdown of an F/A-18D surrogate aircraft using systems developed as part of the unmanned combat air system carrier demonstration.
6 A UH-1Y Huey helicopter (BuNo 167793) assigned to HMLA-369 crashed at Camp Pendleton, Calif., killing one Marine and injuring five others.
8 The F-35C completed the first jet blast deflector test at NSA Lakehurst, N.J.
8 HSC-85 transitioned from being a logistical support squadron to its new mission of supporting Navy special warfare operations at NAS North Island, Calif.
12 The Navy marked eight million accumulated flight hours for the F/A-18 family of aircraft.
15 The Enterprise CSG returned to Norfolk following a six-month deployment in the Mediterranean and Arabian seas.
25 USS John C. Stennis (CVN 64) departed NB Kitsap, Wash., for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
27 The F-35C completed its first steam catapult launch at NSA Lakehurst.
29 The John C. Stennis CSG and CVW-9 departed NAS North Island for a seven-month deployment to the Western Pacific and 5th fleet AOR.

August
3 USS Halyburton (FFG 40), its two Fire Scout unmanned aerial vehicles, and HSL-42 Det. 2 returned to NS Mayport, Fla., after completing a seven-month deployment.
4 USS Cleveland (LPD 7) returned from its final deployment. Cleveland was decommissioned on 30 September at NB San Diego.
6 A CH-46 Chinook helicopter crashed in the Wardak province in Afghanistan, killing 30 U.S. (including 22 SEALs) and 8 Afghan service members.
10 Coast Guard crews rescued two Marines from VMFA-121 after their F/A-18 Hornet crashed into the Pacific Ocean near MCAS Miramar, Calif.
11 USS New Orleans (LPD 18) hosted deck-landing qualifications for Marine Corps AH-1Z Cobra attack helicopters during a predeployment exercise. New Orleans’ late 2011 deployment marked the first operational deployment of the AH-1Z.
24 A T-34 Turbomentor assigned to VT-28 based out of NAS Corpus Christi, Texas, crashed with no fatalities reported.
24 The Navy’s alternative energy program expanded when a T-45 completed a biofuel flight at NAS Patuxent River.

September
7 The C-12 Huron’s more than 30 years of faithful Navy service officially ended at a disestablishment ceremony held on NB Coronado, Calif.
9 Ronald Reagan returned to San Diego ending a seven-month deployment that included supporting combat missions in Afghanistan and helping in relief efforts in Japan.
13 An F/A-18A Hornet from VFA-204 crashed after attempting to land at NAS Fallon. The pilot only suffered minor injuries.
16 An EA-6B Prowler completed its inaugural biofuel flight at NAS Patuxent River.
19 George Washington returned to sea to continue patrol after three weeks at Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Japan.
19 Two Marines from HMLAT-303 died when their AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter crashed at Camp Pendleton, igniting a brush fire in a remote area of the base.
27 An E-2D Advanced Hawkeye made its first EMALS takeoff at NSA Lakehurst.
30 An MQ-8B Fire Scout flew for the first time using biofuel during a test flight at Webster Field in St. Inigoes, Md.

October
3 An F-35B landed for the first time on a ship at sea aboard USS Wasp (LHD 1). The test, the first of three scheduled at-sea evolutions for the STOVL aircraft, was designed to collect environmental data on Wasp’s deck to measure the F-35B’s impact to flight deck operations.
15 The George Washington CSG departed early from a port visit in Singapore to provide humanitarian aid in the wake of the worst flooding in many years in Thailand. The Navy withdrew their ships on 24 October after never receiving a formal request for assistance from the Thai government.
18 Abraham Lincoln pulled into its homeport of Everett, Wash., for the last time. Abraham Lincoln now calls NS Norfolk its homeport.
25 USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) celebrated the 25th anniversary of the ship’s commissioning.

An ice sculpture decorates the hangar bay aboard USS Enterprise (CVN 65) during the "Fifty Years of Legendary Service" ceremony. Enterprise concluded the 50th anniversary of her commissioning celebration Nov. 28 and is scheduled for her 22nd and last deployment this spring. (U.S. Navy photo by MC2 Eric C. Tretter)

November
25 Enterprise celebrated 50 years of active service.
30 Carl Vinson and CVW 17 departed NAS North Island for a deployment to the Western Pacific and U.S Central Command AOR.

December
1 U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta officially brought the year-long celebration of the Naval Aviation centennial to a close at a gala event at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C.
5 Sailors assigned to Enterprise departed NS Norfolk for the first phase of preparations for the ship’s 22nd and final deployment.
8 Two Navy E-2C Hawkeye aircraft from VAW-77 detected and provided assistance to a capsized fishing vessel near Barranquilla, Colombia.
10 USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) and its CSG returned to Norfolk following a seven-month deployment to the 5th and 6th Fleet AORs.
17 A detachment of Marines from VMU-1 in Afghanistan completed its first unmanned aerial cargo delivery in a combat zone. The unmanned system, a Lockheed Martin K-MAX helicopter, moved just under two tons of food and supplies to Marines at Combat Outpost Payne.
18 The John C. Stennis CSG and embarked CVW-9 launched the Navy’s final sortie over Iraq, ending naval aviation support for Operation New Dawn.
23 The VAQ-138 Yellow Jackets returned to NAS Whidbey Island following a six-month deployment to Iraq, only the second expeditionary deployment for a squadron of EA-18G Growlers.