United States Navy in Operation Desert Storm (Part 1 - 'E' aircraft)

Gulf War mission markings on EP-3E 157320/26, “Evelyn”. See third image below for a picture of the bearer. Photo © M. Hopper.

The initial buildup of Navy forces during Operation Desert Shield (the preparations for Operation Desert Storm) drew upon the normal forward-deployed posture of the fleet.  On 2nd August 1990, the ships of Joint Task Force Middle East were put on station in the Persian Gulf, the USS Eisenhower battle group in the central Mediterranean (on the last month of a scheduled six-month deployment) and the USS Independence battle group near Diego Garcia, in the early stages of a scheduled Indian Ocean deployment.

With the invasion, both battle groups moved toward the crisis area and by 8 August were on station and ready to conduct air strikes - Eisenhower in the Red Sea and Independence in the Gulf of Oman; Independence would have been able to launch long-range strikes as early as 5 August if required.

Thus, on 'C-day', 7 August - the day that President Bush committed U.S. forces to the protection of Saudi Arabia - naval presence in the crisis area consisted of two carrier battle groups with more than 100 fighter and attack aircraft plus a surface action group and a command ship in the Persian Gulf.  Those forces were later reinforced by no less than four additional carrier battle groups and a pair of battleships. 

There followed a constant build up of ground, air and sea forces, culminating in Operation Desert Storm itself, which began on 17 January 1991. When Operation Desert Storm commenced, the Navy had a total of six Carrier groups operating in the Persian Gulf and Red Sea.

Our Malcolm Hopper has assembled this series of images from several visits to various locations after the cessation of hostilities.  They are meant to convey the variety of aircraft involved and we thank 'Choppa' for his efforts, which hopefully will suitably enthuse you as there are plenty of subject kits out there!  This first part covers aircraft involved in Electronic Warfare to support, protect or attack.

Perhaps the least likely US Navy participant in the Gulf War was the Douglas Skywarrior. VQ-2, based at NAS Rota, Spain, still operated the EA-3C Skywarrior in conjunction with EP-3E Orions in the ELINT/SIGINT role. This EA-3B 146454/004 from VQ-2 was one of the star attractions at Fairford in July 1991. This 31 year old aircraft provided electronic reconnaissance throughout the conflict and beyond operating from Jeddah/King Abdul Aziz Airport, Saudi Arabia. This particular airframe was accepted by the US Navy in April 1960 and finally retired in September 1991 although it did continue to operate for some time after with a contractor. Photo © M. Hopper.

Another closer view of EA-3B 146454/004 at Fairford; hard to believe that this aircraft was 31 years old at the time although it is not however certain that the airframe hasn’t been repainted for her public display. VQ-2 operated up to five of these venerable old aircraft during the Gulf War. Photo © M. Hopper.

‘Partner in crime’ to the Skywarrior was the EP-3E also from VQ 2, Rota. This is 157320/26 landing at Fairford in 1991. An interesting and challenging conversion as the EP-3E is festooned with aerials, radomes and fairings! Photo © M. Hopper.

EA-6B 163524/NE/605 “Spanky” operated from USS Ranger with VAQ-131 “Lancers”. Nose art was fairly rare for Navy aircraft and the reasons for the name are unclear. Seen here at the October 1991 Dallas Alliance show, the airframe is showing signs of wear and tear after her exploits in the Gulf - great for the weathering gurus out there. All EA-6B aircraft operated during the Gulf War were ICAP II standard. Photo © M. Hopper.

E-2C 151781/AJ/602 seen at the Dallas Alliance show in October 91 was in the markings of VAW-124 "Bear Aces" and operated from USS Theodore Roosevelt as part of CVW-8. By the time of the cease-fire on 28th February, the squadron had flown a total of 331 combat sorties and over 1,150 combat hours in support of 1,220 strikes against 531 targets, the most combat hours and combat sorties of any E-2C squadron. Photo © M. Hopper.