Airborne Early Warning Squadron 116 (VAW 116) “Sun Kings”


The E-2C Hawkeye is the United States Navy’s all-weather, carrier-capable tactical airborne early warning aircraft. The main functions of the E-2 are to provide airborne early warning and command and control capabilities for all aircraft-carrier battle groups. It also provides air and sea surveillance for hundreds of miles in all directions to identify potential threats to the carrier group, assists in fleet defense, controls strike aircraft on offensive missions, assists in search and rescue, and can relay both air to air and ship to air radio communications.

Photorecon was recently invited out to Naval Base Ventura County Point Mugu to catch some Hawkeyes in action. Airborne Early Warning Squadron 116 (VAW-116), the “Sun Kings”, were doing their final carrier qualifications in their Northrop Grumman E-2C Hawkeyes prior to departing on the USS Carl Vinson for a scheduled ten month deployment with the rest of Carrier Air Wing 17 (CVW-17). Performing carrier qualifications at their home station is an opportunity for the pilots to enhance their skills associated with landing on an aircraft carrier and to demonstrate the levels of proficiency required to do so.

We started the day with going by the Sun Kings ready room and maintenance bays. We were able to talk to some of the air crews and get their take on the upcoming deployment. I asked Lieutenant Geoffrey Reeg if he was excited about going out to sea for ten months on this deployment. “I’m excited as this is my first deployment, and it finally gives us a chance to use the all training we have learned.” He went on to add though, “The hardest part really is the family aspect, being separated from them will be rough.” I told him I can completely relate and that I one hundred percent agree. I thanked him for his sacrifice, and wished him a safe deployment and a speedy return.

We were then taken out to the Landing Safety Officer (LSO) shack and spent a few hours watching the Sun King’s E-2Cs perform low approaches and ‘touch and gos’, simulating lining up on the carrier for landing. Periodically one of the 2 Hawkeye’s would land, swap out crew members, then launch back into the air and fly out over the ocean. A few moments later you could hear the whine of the engines as the Hawkeye swooped in from over the mountain and dove in for the carrier break. They would then set up in the pattern and resume their low approaches with the other Hawkeye. It was a real pleasure to see up close some of the training that goes into carrier qualifications and helping keep America’s fighting forces safe.

I’d like to thank Kimberly Gearhart and Vance Vasquez of the NBVC Pt Mugu Public Affairs Office for their incredible hospitality and giving me such a great opportunity. I’d also like to thank Lt. Geoffrey Reeg for taking the time out to speak with me about what I’m sure will be an incredible voyage and experience.

I want to wish VAW-116 and all of CVW-17 a safe deployment and speedy return home. Thank you for your service!

Steve Lewis

Steve is a Southern California based photographer living in the Los Angeles area.

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