By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Amber Smalley, USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) Public Affairs
ATLANTIC OCEAN (NNS) — The “Bluetails” of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 121 conducts the first aircraft launch from the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) in U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations.
This flight, April 10, signified the start of air operations in 6th Fleet and set the tone for how Abraham Lincoln and the Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group (ABECSG) will operate and communicate during their time in the theater and throughout the remainder of their deployment.
“The first flight is incredibly important,” Cmdr. Michael McGlynn, commanding officer of the Bluetails, said. “Everybody wants to be the first off the deck when entering a new theater. I imagine we will be the first off in all the theaters, which all of us in the Bluetails are excited about.”
Lt. Cmdr. John O’Neill, the pilot of the first E-2D flight in 6th Fleet who recently reached his 2,000th hour piloting the Hawkeye, said this was special because not only was it the first for the strike group and Abraham Lincoln, but it was his first flight ever in the operating area.
“I’ve only flown in 5th and 7th Fleet, so being not only my first flight in 6th Fleet but the first flight in the entire strike group, it was exciting for both me and my squadron,” O’Neill said. “Flying E-2s from an aircraft carrier is a heavy responsibility that I am excited to teach the new pilots.”
The Bluetails are Abraham Lincoln’s only E-2 squadron, which means they are usually the first off the flight deck for flight operations to ensure the F/A-18 Super Hornets and other aircraft can launch safely and be prepared for the environment they are flying into.
“As we go out first we are developing the picture and the situational awareness for the strike group so we can execute as the admiral and warfare commanders desire,” said McGlynn.
As an integral part of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 7, the Bluetails provide surveillance and build communications, so they take off before any other aircraft and return to the ship only after all others have landed safely.
“We build that common operating picture that allows the strike group to go in and execute the way they need to, then we get everyone home safe,” said Lt. j.g. Scott Benton, a Bluetails pilot.
The E-2 Hawkeye, was the first carrier-based aircraft designed for the all-weather airborne early warning and command and control mission. Since its combat debut during the Vietnam conflict, the E-2 has served the Navy around the world. In 1986, Hawkeyes directed jets flying combat air patrol missions during the strike against terrorist-related Libyan targets.
The E-2D Hawkeye is the newest variant of the E-2 aircraft platform. It features a new radar and upgraded aircraft systems. Some main objectives of the E-2D include improved target detection and situational awareness, support of Theater Air Missile Defense (TAMD) operations, and improved operational availability.
ABECSG is deployed to support maritime security operations and operate in international waters across the globe, along with coalition maritime forces. Coordination between 2nd Fleet and 6th Fleet provides focused and seamless command and control across the Atlantic Ocean.