US Navy Pulling the Plug on NAS Rota, Spain

Commander, Naval Forces Europe/Commander, U.S. 6th Fleet has announced that Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron TWO (VQ-2) will relocate from NAS Rota, Spain, to NAS Whidbey Island, WA, effective Sept. 1. The relocation of VQ-2's six aircraft and 450 Sailors to the United States "is in keeping with the Navy's ongoing transformation of forces in Europe, and will help reduce costs and eliminate redundancies throughout its force structure worldwide."

The move will co-locate the squadron with VQ-1, already based at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. The stated reasons are for increased efficiency of operation of the aging aircraft, economy of scale regarding maintenance and support, and in keeping with the DOD's ongoing effort to save money. Unofficially, the US is likely to also be making a statement about its disappointment in most of Europe -- including Spain -- in caving to terrorists' threats in the past several years. The Navy had already sharply decreased the use of Rota as a forward base for other aviation communities, including its P-3C patrol (VP) squadrons.

VQ-2, established in 1955, has been operating out of Rota since 1960, and was at the forefront of the Navy's reconnaissance operations for the majority of the Cold War. The squadron was instrumental in providing reconnaissance collection for NATO operations in the Balkans in the 1990s, and operated alongside VQ-1 to enforce no-fly zones with operations Northern Watch and Southern Watch during the same period. More recently, VQ-2 deployed to support both operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom in the Middle East.

Until 1991, VQ-2 flew both the EA-3 "Whale" and the EP-3 "Aries" long-range electronic reconnaissance airframes. The last "Whale" retired from active service in September 1991. Additionally, the squadron completely upgraded its EP-3 inventory from 1991 to 1995 with the more modern and capable EP-3E "Aries-II" aircraft.

The closure of VQ-2 facilities in Rota is being done in phases, with most of the sailors and their family members being permitted to complete their tours in Spain, while new personnel report to facilities in Whidbey Island. Additionally, two smaller associated units, Naval Security Group Activity Rota and Aviation Intermediate Maintenance Unit Rota, will be disestablished through the ongoing transformation efforts.

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