VAW-121 Blue Tails E-1B Tracer Model
Coming soon – fly of the USS Shangri La again with the VAW-121 Blue Tails in this wooden E-1b Tracer. Each model is carefully carved and painted to provide a unique piece of Naval Aviation history.
Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron ONE HUNDRED TWENTY ONE (VAW-121) traces its origin to Project Cadillac, a program initiated in 1942 to develop airborne radar relay platforms. By June 1945, the first group of modified Carrier Airbirne Early Warning (AEW) TBM-3 AVENGERS were conducting trials with the USS RANGER (CV 61). However, the war ended before the first AEW units could see action.
Following World War II, Fleet Aviation Electronics Training Units (FAETU’s) were established on both coasts and continued to train pilots, operators, and maintenance personnel on AEW equipment. VAW-1 on the West Coast and VAW-2 on the East Coast were formed to replace the FAETU’s in 1948. Within a yeasr, VAW-2 was redesignated VC-12 and relocated to Quonset Point, Rhode Island, where the TBM-3W was replaced with the AD-3W SKYRAIDER. During the Korean War, VC-12 sent detachments to deploy in West Coast carriers bound for Korea.
VC-12 continued to operate an improved version of the SKYRAIDER, the AD-5W, until 1960 when they acquired the new WF TRACER “WILLY FUDD”, later redesignated as the E-1B. VC-12 was redesignated VAW-12 in 1960 and in 1962 moved from Quonset Point to NAS Norfolk, Virginia. In 1966 the East Coast’s first E-2A arrived and in 1967 the Chief of Naval Operations directed the formation of separate squadrons and a functional wing.
On 1 April 1967, Carrier Airborne Early Warning Wing TWELVE, RVAW-120, VAW-121 and VAW-123 were established. VAW-121 was commissioned as the GRIFFINS with the tactical call sign “PALMETTOS”. The new E-2A’s were flown by all squadrons except VAW-121. They assumed the E-B1’s from VAW-12 and operated aboard USS FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT(CVA 42) as the sole remaining fleet E-1Bsquadron from 1973 through 1975. In 1975, VAW-121 transitioned from the oldest AEW aircraft in the Navy’s inventory, to the newest, the E-2C HAWKEYE.
VAW-121 joined Carrier Air Wing SEVEN (CVW-7) aboard the newly commissioned USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER (CVN 69) in January 1978 and became the first E-2C squadron to operate from a carrier. During this period of new challenges, VAW-121 hanged its tactical call sign to “BLUETAIL” and adopted the unique tail design you see today. VAW-121 quickly established a reputation for superior performance throughout the fleet, and in recognition was awarded the Battle Efficiency “E” for 1979, as well as the 1979 AEW Excellence Award and the CNO Aviation Safety “S”.